One of India’s most memorable away Test wins in recent times came against Australia in Perth in January 2008. Irfan Pathan was the Man of the Match, Rahul Dravid made a crucial 90-plus in the first innings and V.V.S. Laxman contributed an invaluable 70-odd in the second. Yet, the unsung hero of that match was R.P. Singh.
The Rae Bareli left-armer took four for 68 in the first innings to ensure India took a handy lead and when India needed to build on that, RP shared a 51-run ninth-wicket stand in the second innings with Laxman, chipping in with a plucky 30. Fittingly, he ended the match by taking the last
Australian wicket in the fourth innings.
Just when it seemed that India had found the right ammunition to square the series in the last Test, a shin injury sent RP home. He returned a few months later, against South Africa, but never played a Test again after the one in Ahmedabad in April 2008.
Even though he had a few indifferent ODI outings after that, RP currently finds himself way behind in India’s chain of medium-pacers and doesn’t even feature on the fringes. From a nippy customer whose ability to extract bounce on benign pitches impressed experts, he has suddenly become a nowhere man, with UP teammates Sudeep Tyagi and Praveen Kumar overtaking him along with many others.
Not a great mover of the ball, RP used to trouble batsmen mainly with the natural angle of left-armers, sometimes taking them by surprise with kick off the wicket. He never had the in-coming ball like Irfan Pathan, nor the ability to reverse-swing like Zaheer Khan. Neither was he a prodigious swinger of the ball like Ashish Nehra. To make up for all that, RP had to be spot-on with his line and length and that is something he didn’t display when he got a chance to redeem himself in the Champions Trophy last year.
The selectors had no choice but to send him back to domestic cricket and RP needed to do something special to reclaim the place he once owned. He hasn’t done too badly this season, taking 35 wickets in 10 first-class matches at 31.8 apiece, but others have raised the bar. To get back to where he belonged, the 24-year-old has to do a lot better.