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A dream year for Rahul Singh lands him in the India A team after moving to Services

Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh. (Photo Source: Times Of India)

Not often do you get to see a player making his first-class debut top the seasons run-scorers list but Gahlaut Rahul Singh of Services amassed 945 runs in the 9 Ranji Trophy games of the 2016/17 season to make his first impression a lasting one. To top his achievement, Rahul batted mostly at No.6 and even at 7 in a couple of games.

The 21-year-old became only the 2nd player in Ranji Trophy history to score 900 runs in his maiden season. His tally of 945 stands only behind Punjab’s Jiwanjot Singh, who scored 995 runs in 2012/13 season. The attacking left-hander’s exploits in India’s premier first-class tournament earned him a place in the India A squad which is going to play a 3-day warm-up fixture against the touring Australia side in Mumbai ahead of their 4-match Test series.

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I am very happy that my hard work has finally paid off for me,” said Rahul about his maiden India A appearance. “The support and efforts of my parents and the coaches have really helped me to reach this level.

Even though he finished as the 5th highest run-scorer in Ranji Trophy, Rahul couldn’t make a cut into the Rest of India squad which played in the Irani Cup against the Ranji champions Gujarat. The on air commentators during the game raised doubts over consideration of Group C performances even as Himachal’s Nitin Saini couldn’t make it to the RoI team. However, Rahul doesn’t mind that as long as all the performers get their due.

Also Watch: Yuvraj Singh smashes 3 consecutive sixes in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy

I really don’t know whether to think about all these things. My intent will be to perform well and wait for a chance. I am really happy with the selectors who have picked me in the India A side to play against Australia. So I got what I deserved and what I wanted,” said Rahul Singh talking exclusively to CricTracker.

It hasn’t been easy going for him in senior level cricket as he wasn’t a preferred player while he was with the Hyderabad side until last season. His career in Hyderabad couldn’t really take off and his shift to Services gave him the platform to express himself.

Last year, I was in Hyderabad U23 team that too in stand byes. I wasn’t picked in Ranji Trophy team either. If we perform well in U23, after 5-6 games we will get to play in Ranjis. This means we won’t get full season and I didn’t get a chance to play in U23 itself. I know that I have the potential and I couldn’t waste it anymore there. Here in Services, I played all the 9 games this season and now even got picked in the India A side.

The youngster was always a promising player in Hyderabad as far as junior level is concerned but was never awarded an opportunity with the senior team. Playing in the U16 Vijay Merchant 3-day matches tournament in 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons, Rahul Singh scored 1020 runs in 14 innings at an amazing average of 92.7. He struck an unbeaten 303 and a 207 in those, and both at almost at a strike-rate of 90.

His exploits continued in the Vinoo Mankad tournament, the 50-over tourney for U19s in 2012/13 season, where he scored a brilliant 158 off just 114 balls coming in to bat at No.5. Later he scored 114-ball 145 in South Zone U22 One-day tournament. His performances for Hyderabad in junior ranks could earn him only 6 List A games and 5 Twenty20 matches as then 18-year-old couldn’t get going at the senior level. Despite a consistent run after the 2013/14 season in junior level, Rahul couldn’t feature even in one game for the senior side across all the three formats.

However, he saw a ray of hope when Biju Nair, the Army cricket team coach gave a tip to the left-hander about cracking into the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) side, which could help him showcase his talent.

The Army Cricket headquarters are in Hyderabad. Their team’s coach (Biju Nair) liked my batting and suggested me to join Army so that I can play directly for Services and get more opportunities. Hence I accepted the proposal as it could offer me more chances to play higher level, which is what I was looking for.

Rahul, who started his career in Hyderabad, says that he was a part of the state teams when he was as young as 11 years as he featured in U13 tournaments. He also said that his parents have played an important role in his success.

When I was 3-4 years old, my father used to take me to the park and make me play. He had a lot of interest in cricket. My parents always backed me well and have been supportive in my tough times.

Even though he set new limits to Services’ cricket history with a stalwart season, Rahul still feels there are a lot of areas he has to work on. “Cricket is a learning process,” said the young man. “Even after scoring 950 (945) runs, there are a lot of things I have to improve. After some good scores in this season, I got carried away. I could have scored at least two more hundreds. So will try to control and continue the good performances.

Despite his success in the Ranji Trophy, Rahul feels he actually needs to work more on his defense as his game is more suited for the shorter formats given his attacking instinct. “Actually, I am working on my defense. I really love playing the Twenty20 format. I am naturally suited for the limited-over formats and it is just matter of time where I can perform well in those tournaments as well.

His attacking approach is evident from his strike-rate in the Ranji season as he scored his runs at a healthy S/R of 62. Talking more about the things he really wants to improve in the next season, Rahul said, “I will continue to work hard on my game and try to score as much as possible. There will be pressure for sure after a big season like this and I would like to overcome it with my mental strength. I want to work more on the short balls. As I said I got carried away after couple of good scores, I would like to cut down my shots and try to stay at crease for longer period.

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