When the Indian U-19 team takes on its South African counterparts in a series starting on February 20, they will have a path-breaker among them.
Manipur’s 18-year-old left-arm fast bowler Rex Rajkumar Singh, who first broke into the national spotlight with his astounding feat of picking all 10 wickets in an innings in a Cooch Behar trophy match against Arunachal Pradesh, has become the first player from the North East to be selected to an Indian representative side.
When he was made aware of the call-up, Rex admits, he couldn’t quite believe it. Unlike other teenage prodigies such as Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagrkoti, who can generate speeds in excess of 145 kmph, Rex operates at slower speeds. However, he compensates what he lacks in speed with his ability to swing the ball.
Perfect 10: Manipur’s Rex Singh’s fiery spell.This Manipur boy claimed 10 wickets with his smooth action and beautiful in swingers. Watch as he sends the stumps flying in a Cooch Behar Trophy game against Arunachal Pradesh.📽️📽️https://t.co/C41mEewQTj pic.twitter.com/sI6jIdiiNv
— BCCI Domestic (@BCCIdomestic) December 13, 2018
“I had never expected to make it this soon to the India U-19 team,” an ecstatic Rex told CricketNext. “Last two seasons I had been doing well in age-group cricket, but I didn’t see this coming. All I knew that someday I will be rewarded with a call-up, just didn’t know when. I know my limitations as a bowler, since I’m not very tall, I know that I can attain only limited speed but swing is my main weapon and that has been reaping me good rewards."
Rex is no stranger to exceptional performances, bagging a five-for on debut in an U16 match against Bihar. However, it was the 10-wicket haul that was a life-changing moment. The feat was that much sweeter as he had been dropped from the state team after having played two Ranji and six List A games.
“Before that match I had a good look at the wicket and saw a lot of grass on it,” he recalls. “Also, the weather was conducive for swing bowling. So, I just stuck to my strength and kept having a go at the batsmen. All I had to do was control the swing. In the first innings too I bagged five wickets. I knew I had a chance to bag more wickets, but never really thought of getting all 10."
While Rex tasted success in age-group cricket, playing in the senior team was an eye opener, an experience he learnt much from. The stint with the Indian U19 team will further his education in the game, and he is hopeful that the skill set he possesses will deliver success.
“I played a few Ranji Trophy matches last year, but it’s a totally different league from the age-group cricket,” he says. “Here at the U-19 or even at U-23, you can pitch the ball up or drop it short, and still get away with it. But that doesn’t happen in the senior cricket. The margin of error is really low, and you need to hit the right spot from ball one. You need to put in extra yards for that, and I’m trying to get to that level.
“I think I shouldn’t tinker with my swing. That is my stock delivery, that gets me most of my wickets, but I have to add an out-swinger to my bowling that will add the surprise element. I also need to improve my fitness, for fast bowlers that is the basic requirement. If that improves I’ll definitely become a better bowler."