Rex Singh becomes first cricketer from Manipur to be selected in an India teamhttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/rex-singh-manipur-india-u-19-first-cricketer-indian-cricket-team-5584603/

Rex Singh becomes first cricketer from Manipur to be selected in an India team

18-year-old left-arm pacer Rex Rajkumar Singh made the cricketing fraternity sit up and take notice after achieving the rare feat of picking up all 10 wickets in an innings during a Cooch Behar Under-19 Trophy match against Arunachal Pradesh.

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Rex Singh from Manipur picked all 10 wickets in a Cooch Behar U19 Trophy match. (File)

In December 2018, 18-year-old left-arm pacer Rex Rajkumar Singh made the cricketing fraternity sit up and take notice after achieving the rare feat of picking up all 10 wickets in an innings during a Cooch Behar Under-19 Trophy match against Arunachal Pradesh in Anantpur. His figures of 9.5-6-10-11 were simply staggering but what also stood out was his ability to swing the ball into the batsman- for which comparisons with veteran India pacer Irfan Pathan came up.  The teenager has definitely hit the right notes in the early stages of his budding career and is reaping the due rewards of hard work after becoming the first player from the state of Manipur to be selected in a representative Indian team. Rex was picked in India’s Under-19 squad for the 4-day games against South Africa U-19 this month.

Born in Sagolband Moirang Hanuba ( 3 km from Imphal), Rex’s journey to cricket began with a tennis ball in front of a small ground near his house. “I used to practice Taekwondo and play football in the ground but the interest never materialised,” said Rex. It was there that Ph Rohendro Singh, who is currently his coach, noticed him for the first time and brought about the transition from tennis to leather-ball cricket.

“What caught my eye was that even as a 10-year-old he was bowling quick and maintained discipline. That prompted me to take him under my wings and today I am happy that he has excelled,” said coach Rohendro Singh.

The transition from tennis to leather was not difficult for the youngster as he was handed a leather ball quite early in his career. “Bowling at the age of 10-11 with a leather ball helped me a lot. Added to that my coach guided me well on how to hold the ball and also told me the importance of the wrist position,” recalled Rex.

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Rex’s first notable performance came in his first BCCI tournament in Ranchi in 2014.

It was not long before Rex’s first notable performance came in his initial BCCI tournament in Ranchi in 2014 where he picked up a five-wicket haul against Bihar U-16 (Associate and Affiliated Tournament). Since then there was no looking back.

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“In that match, I realised that my movement with the ball is causing genuine trouble to the batsman and from that tournament itself I started focusing on my inswing,” said Rex.

“My strength is my left arm swing as it comes naturally to me. I practice it more even in the nets,” he added.

However, his favourite moment is a memorable 10-wicket haul that he took on December 13 to ensure Arunachal Pradesh were bowled out for a paltry 36 in the second innings.

Time and again he deceived the batsman with his lethal in-swing. He bowled five batsmen, two of his wickets were lbw, two caught behind and one caught by another player. He was also on a hat-trick thrice.

“I never thought I could take 10 wickets. What made it even more special was that I could also pick up a hat-trick in it,” recalled Rex.

His impressive performances in Cooch Behar Trophy opened the door for a spot in Manipur’s Ranji Trophy squad. Thereafter he did feature in a couple of first-class games but what caught everyone’s attention was his ability to move the red ball in the air.

England seamer James Anderson is his favourite cricketer primarily because of excellent wrist position. “I love the way he grips and swings the ball and I watch his videos on youtube. Mithcell Starc is another bowler that I am looking forward to learn from,” he said.

When asked how he plans to build his strength, Rex said that he is not keen on rushing things as does not want to comprise on his potent weapon- swing.

Rex is also thankful to his father, who is a truck driver in Imphal, for supporting him financially. “For us, cricket is an expensive game and I am happy that I could make them proud. My father supported a family of three single-handedly and never allowed my cricket to stop. So I am really very happy,” he concluded.

Lessons learned

Training sessions at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) helped the teenager get meaningful insights into the game. “It was an eye-opener. I came across certain aspects of the game that I had never thought of before. I was told of how to manage my diet and focus on my action,” he said.

“Now I know that to play at the top-level I need to grow my patience, work on my abilities and keep repeating my performances,” he further added.

However, one thing that also caught the youngsters eye was modern training facilities. “In Manipur it is very hard to practice as it rains often and we do not have an indoor stadium. But I hope with time it develops,” he signed off.

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India U19 Squad for 4-day games against South Africa U19: Suraj Ahuja (C & WK) (Team Rajasthan), Divyaansh Saxena (MCA), Varun Nayanar (Kerala), Avneesh Sudha (Team Uttarakhand), Yashasvi Jaiswal (MCA), Vaibhav Kandpal (DDCA), Shaurya Saran (HPCA), Hrithik Shokeen (DDCA), Manav Suthar (Team Rajasthan), Manishi (JSCA), Sabir Khan (Bihar), Anshul Kamboj (Haryana), Rajvardhan Hangargekar (MHCA), Rohit Dattatraya (VCA), Rex Singh (Manipur), Vathsal Sharma (Kerala)