Year in and year out, the IPL has been home to talent from every corner of the world. 16 years and the “Where Talent meets Opportunities” motto of India’s largest cricketing festival finds fulfillment every single time. More so this year, for not one but two main reasons – often referred to as – the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand stories.
For the man of the hour to start with – Akash Madhwal, in his late 20s, was drafted in by the Mumbai Indians last year. Under the watchful eyes of the MI support stop, he grew from strength to strength. Bought to the fore only in the latter half of this IPL, the Uttarakhand speedster has been at the helm of MI’s bowling, both at the death and with the new ball. Think of it, with respect to the franchise losing both Bumrah and Archer in the season, the Akash Madhwal story is no short of a miracle. A small-town boy from Roorkee going in the mundane engineering route after school, found a way back to his passion only in 2018. From playing with the tennis ball then, to being one of MI’s mainstays and inarguably the hero of the Eliminator, Madhwal has come a long way.
Interestingly, Madhwal was offered the captaincy of his state T20 side in the 2022 season. Manish Jha, the Uttarakhand coach referred to him as coming of age in that tournament. He handled the pressure well while also being the spearhead of a young bowling attack.
“CAU secretary Mahim Verma backed him. We sat him down and told him we were giving him the captaincy of the T20 team. He became responsible from there. He always had good yorkers at pace but his tendency to bowl too many different types of bowls hurt him. As a captain, he realized he couldn’t take chances and stuck to his strengths. He always had a good temperament because tennis-ball cricket is very intense and competitive,” Jha said.
A few of his yorkers this season have shared a glimpse of missing Bumrah in the Mumbai Indians setup. However, the shy and humble man himself quietly put the comparison away saying “Bumrah bhai is at his place and I am at my place.” After all, it is the attitude that has mattered the most in any sport. It also comes from the franchise setup and the number of experienced senior players/mentors on the Mumbai side. The franchise has had a history of producing talents one after the other – perhaps, this one being one of the more special ones given the situation, early in the tournament.
The other wonder this season is a certain pocket-size dynamo from the Kolkata Knight Riders setup. Rinku Singh rose to the occasion almost every single time asking. He broke into the scene when he smashed Yash Dayal for 5 consecutive sixes in the final over of a run-chase against Gujrat Titans. The southpaw had already begun the tournament well with the bat and was soon shouldering KKR’s fragile middle-order single-handedly. Striking at around 150 consistently, despite playing the most crucial overs of the game, Rinku Singh is regarded as the biggest success story of the season.
From Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, Rinku unlike Madhwal was always into cricket making his List A debut for UP at 16. He further went on to play his first First Class game a couple of years later. He was brought by KXIP in 2017 and then by KKR in 2018 where he finally made his IPL debut. Despite not being a regular fixture, KKR stuck with him for the last few years and is reaping the rewards to the fullest. Though the team would have liked to have ended the campaign on a high, the individual contributions from Rinku cannot be overlooked. He came on the back of an amazing domestic season, and his sheer ability to be aggressive and attacking from the get-go distinguished him from the rest. Also in the latter half of his 20s, the left-hander might have well put himself up for a WC 2024 India team spot contention already.
Two of the many dreams IPL has fulfilled over the years, Rinku and Akash have surely inspired a set of individuals with their honest efforts. Perhaps, not just in the sport but in the broader sense of life.