MUMBAI: He bowls everything in spin with his left-arm. When IPL 2022 began, Kumar Kartikeya Singh was a net bowler for Mumbai Indians. But an injury to Mohammad Arshad Khan meant he was drafted into the main squad and made his debut mid-season against Rajasthan Royals with an impressive 1/19.
Since then, Kartikeya has impressed everyone with his skills and has seen his life turn around in a few short weeks. From Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh, to toiling in Delhi, moving to Madhya Pradesh for cricketing opportunities and excelling in the biggest stage of his life while donning the Mumbai Indians jersey, Kartikeya’s run in IPL has been pretty eventful. But the 24-year-old’s yearning for cricket came through his father.
“He was watching a match on TV, I was very young then, and Virender Sehwag was batting. I didn’t know much about cricket then. I saw that my dad enjoyed watching cricket so my interest in the sport developed, and I thought I should also play it,” shared Kartikeya in a video posted by the franchise on their social media handles.
The pursuit of cricket took Kartikeya on a long journey, which demanded a move to Delhi for better opportunities. “The first year in Delhi was a long struggle. Then I met Sanjay Bharadwaj sir there. He saw me bowl only one ball. And as soon as he saw that he said, he told me, ‘You do one thing, stay here with me. I will take care of whatever you need’.”
“Sir has taken care of me like I’m his own son. I stayed with him for six years. He took care of every single cricketing expense. I was playing in Delhi at that time. I performed too, but in the trials, I didn’t get selected. Then sir told me, ‘You should go to Madhya Pradesh’. I reached Shahdol and played trial matches and practice matches there, and for the first time, I got selected in the Under-23 side, as a standby.”
The move to Madhya Pradesh began to bear fruit as Kartikeya moved from U23 to senior cricket. “Then next year, my name was listed for a Ranji Trophy trial match. I did well there and got to play in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. I called my father for the first time in six years. When he spoke to me, he was very happy but didn’t show it. He told me that it’s good I’ve played at this level, but life can take me ahead too, and there’s lots more to do. He hung up the phone after saying this.”
Kartikeya’s father, a police officer, didn’t display much emotions that time. But when he made his debut for Mumbai Indians, the smile which he had seen as a kid came back. “I told my dad that I’m playing the match, so he told his entire battle that, and they put a projector for everyone to see (match against Rajasthan Royals).”
“When I took my first wicket, they all gave a standing ovation and hugged my dad. When he shared that video with me after the game, it was a completely different joy for me because I saw my father having the same joy that I had seen in childhood and when I just started playing.”
Before his IPL debut, Kartikeya experienced joy on rubbing shoulders alongside stalwarts of the game. “When I came, the first person I saw was Rohit bhaiyya. I couldn’t take my eyes off him! It was the first time I was seeing someone in the flesh, who earlier I had seen only on TV! Then I saw Sachin sir, face to face.”
“Mumbai Indians have supported me a lot. Rahul (Sanghvi) sir, Bondy (Shane Bond) sir, Mahela sir, Zaheer sir… everyone spoke to me about bowling patterns, what can be done where, how to plan your bowling.”
“When I entered the ground, and it was time for me to bowl, Rohit bhaiyya handed me the ball, and told me I would be bowling the next over. He told me to bowl ‘bindaas’ (without worries). ‘I’ ll take care of everything. You just focus on bowling.'”
It has been well-documented that Kartikeya hasn’t been home in nine years to fulfill the promise made to himself of coming back only after he had achieved something. Going home after an impressive IPL 2022 would have been perfect. But Kartikeya has got his focus on the next mission after IPL 2022:- to turn out for Madhya Pradesh, who has qualified for Ranji Trophy knockouts.
“When I left home, I thought I’d return only after having accomplished something. After the IPL gets over, the MP team needs me, because the Ranji Trophy knockouts will be there. So I’ll play those first and only then return home. I’ll be going home after nine years so I’m quite excited to see what my parents’ reaction will be.”
Focusing on bowling is what Kartikeya wants to do to excel in future. As his father said to him, “You’ve got this jersey now (the Mumbai Indians one), and now you have to focus on the future.”