In an era dominated by cricketing extravaganza, players signing up for staggering wage deals and lucrative IPL contracts, R.P. Singh doesn’t quite fit the bill.
He’s 31, bowls at around 115kmph, and has followed the path of other veterans like Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer and Pragyan Ojha to switch to a different state in order to keep playing domestic cricket.
Two years back, when the Gujarat management roped in his services, little did they know of the monumental returns that the former Indian bowler would provide to the team. Players switching sides often come for a hefty price given the kind of competition that prevails in signing up senior players in whom team managements hunt for a mentor to guide the side. However, Rudra Pratap Singh decided to play matches for free besides acting as a mentor on-and-off the field.
“We’re not paying him a single penny. We wanted to sign up a few senior players who would guide the juniors in the team,” said Gujarat coach Vijay Patel. “He’s been doing that for the past two years and we can all see the results.”
This is Singh’s fifth match of the Ranji Trophy this season and he has already picked up 16 wickets. He’s far from the bowler he was who helped India beat Australia nine years back at Perth, but he showed glimpses of his abilities with the new ball — swinging it both ways while keeping the pressure from one end with an impressive economy rate in his first two spells.
“We have a decent bench strength when it comes to fast bowlers and thus, we ensured he (Singh) doesn’t play all the games,” Patel said. “Given his age, we knew he might not be able to play all the matches but we wanted to hold on to him as someone who we could use for his experience and the big matches.” While Bumrah’s 6/29 turned things around in Gujarat’s favour in their semifinal clash against Jharkhand, R.P. Singh’s nine wickets in the match was instrumental for Gujarat to reach their second final in 66 years.
For a fast bowler, he’s also a tad less-animated than his counterparts and is more of the unsung hero in the side who chips in with vital contributions while not bragging about the same. He was a part of the side that won the 2007 T20I World Cup against Pakistan in Johannesburg and while almost every Indian remembers Joginder Sharma’s harmless delivery that won them the World Cup, very few can recall the terrific delivery that uprooted Kamran Akmal’s off-stump. He ended the tournament as India’s leading wicket-taker with 12 wickets from seven games.
Patel lauded the veteran’s humble nature and the modesty with which he approaches the game. “If a bowler doesn’t want to admit that he is past his prime, it doesn’t help anyone. The plus point with him (Singh) is that he realises his role in the team,” Patel added. “He’s such a senior player, has represented the country, but if you look at the manner in which he has gelled with the team, it’s hard to think he’s joined us from a different side.”
Singh, who had started his Test career with a man-of-the-match performance against Pakistan in Faisalabad, also helped Gujarat to lift their maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy in his debut campaign after switching sides.
Heaping praise on the veteran’s action, Patel added: “He has one of the smoothest actions among Indian bowlers and has stuck to that throughout his career. He’s still wily and because of the simplest of actions, hasn’t had too many injuries to deal with and can play the game at his level.”