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Mon, 30 Mar 2020

Northeast Today


February 07
14:33 2020

Jnan Jyoti Deka

On 11 December 2018, an 18-year-old cricketer from Manipur took 10 wickets in an innings, making the headlines and taking the Indian cricket by storm by achieving this rare feat. The young lad, who dismantled the opponents in the match almost single-handedly was Rajkumar Rex Singh, a left-arm fast bowler from Manipur. His ability to swing the ball accompanied by the perfect yorkers makes him a bowler with unplayable tricks up his sleeves. And since that performance, Rex has got all the attention he deserves.

Born in a family plagued with economic hardships, Rex’s cricketing journey in his childhood was not a smooth one. But he continued to work towards his goal and finally played his first under-14 game in 2014-15. He even had to skip his class 12 examinations in 2017 as he was playing in Affiliates and Associates tournament.

But his hard work alone would not have led him forward in his journey as Manipur was not a participant in the Indian domestic cricket tournaments at the highest level. It was only in 2017 when the Committee of Administrators (CoA) decided to include the North-Eastern states in the Ranji Trophy and other senior-level tournaments from 2018. The decision opened up the world of opportunities for Rex at the national level and he did all the things right to make his presence felt in the domestic circuit.

rexRex made his List A debut for Manipur on 19 September 2018 against Puducherry in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2018-19. Although he remained wicketless in that match, he was quite economical with the ball as he gave 23 runs in 6 overs. Soon after, he made his first appearance in the first- class cricket on 1 November 2018 in the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy against Sikkim in which he scalped 3 wickets.

But it did not take him too long to take the Indian domestic cricket by storm as he accomplished a rare feat of taking a 10-wicket haul in an innings against Arunachal Pradesh in Cooch Behar U19 Trophy on 12 December 2018. The feat came in the second innings as the Arunachali batsmen looked absolutely clueless in front of his swinging yorkers bowled at perfect lengths and lost their plot. Rex ended the match with 15 wickets in his bag, 5 of which he scalped in the first innings and helped his team to win the game by 10 wickets.

Rex has enjoyed a lot of success in the last couple of years. So far the young left-arm has played 4 first-class games, scalping 15 wickets at a healthy average of 21.06. He has also played 12 List A games in which he has 18 wickets to his name at an average of 20.77 and an economy of 4.92. He picked up 26 wickets from 7 matches in the U19 Vinoo Mankad Trophy 2018-19. He also made his T20 debut for Manipur in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019-20.

All these performances have made him one of the most effective bowlers in the domestic circuit in recent times. And probably, one more successful season with the ball can earn him a call for India’s U19 team, making him the first player from Manipur to represent India.
But his journey to the international level is never going to be easy. There are many other players from the leading states already in the reckoning, waiting in the wings. And making way through them is surely going to be a tough climb for Rex. Moreover, the lack of cricketing infrastructure in Manipur will also post a challenge to Rex in making his dream come true. He will have to crack that tough nut in order to get success.

Fortunately, BCCI has decided to take many initiatives to strengthen the infrastructure of domestic cricket to find and groom emerging players like Rex and help them in showcasing their potential.

How often does a cricketer from North-East India grab the eyeballs at the national level? From late Madhurjya Prasad Baruah who represented the Indian School Team in 1957-58 to the latest sensation Riyan Parag, North-East has produced quality players like Rajesh Bora, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Krishna Das etc. over all these years. They did well to rise, but never made it to the highest level, leaving the entire region waiting for their first international cricketer at the senior level.

And now, with the emergence of young guns like Rex Singh, once again North-East can hope to witness the first North-Eastern player playing at the highest level. Can Rex Singh live up to the expectations? Only time will tell.

At present, Rex is only 19 years old and it will not be fair to put the burden of expectations on him since it may lead to his breakdown. But if groomed properly and given enough exposure, Rex Singh can surely don the Indian Jersey in near future.

The writer is an ardent cricket enthusiast and loves to pen down stories from the world of cricket.


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