Kumar Kartikeya Singh's struggle story is not less than a fairytale. He has taken 5 wickets from 4 games for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2022.
As the saying goes, "Everything happens for a good reason." when Arshad Khan’s injury closed the doors on his debut, it opened the door for a young, multi-talented youngster, Kumar Kartikeya Singh.
Kartikeya was a net bowler for Mumbai Indians for the last two seasons; he is a left-arm bowler and bowls pretty much everything with that left hand that the game has to offer. He can bowl finger spin, wrist spin, carrom balls, wrong ‘uns and what not! Maybe he can also throw a javelin with that left hand of his.
Son of Constable honed a cricketing dream
Pretty much like every other Indian cricketer who has made it big on the international circuit, thanks to the ocean of opportunities provided by the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kumar Kartikeya’s story is no different! Hailing from Sultanpur, a city situated on the banks of Gomati in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Kartikeya was a young boy with empty pockets, shoulders full of responsibilities, and eyes filled with dreams.
The son of a constable in Uttar Pradesh, Kumar Kartikeya Singh had to leave Kanpur at the age of 15 in a bid to hone his skills. The youngster had immense belief in his abilities and had promised his family that his cricket wouldn’t be a burden on them. In fact, he had promised his family that he wouldn't go back to his hometown till he had achieved something in his life that was worthwhile. Such was the self-belief and confidence of Kartikeya. But determination is one thing and reality is another. And when you are up against financial odds, the challenges are even greater.
Destiny's Plan and the Power of Failure
After bowling his heart out and appearing for multiple trials for the Uttar Pradesh first class side, Kartikeya didn’t quite get the breakthrough he was looking for. His then coach, Rohan, asked him to move to Delhi and play better cricket there as he might get more opportunities in the national capital.
When nothing is going in your favour, even an hour feels like a century. The same happened with Kartikeya, where he struggled for one long year till he met his new coach and life-changing mentor, Sanjay Bhardwaj.
People say that if you work hard enough and are determined enough to achieve something, even your destiny aligns energy towards it. And every fairytale has an angel of its own. Kumar’s angel was his coach Bhardwaj, who saw just one ball delivered from Kartikeya’s hand and immediately decided to take care of all the things for this talented youngster, from cricketing gear to food to accommodation.
From playing cricket along with a full-time job to Madhya Pradesh side: Quite a journey
Before meeting Bhardwaj Sir, Kartikeya worked as a labourer in a factory near Ghaziabad for his food and lodging. He would work all night and then turn up for practice in the morning. Kartikeya was later told to just focus on his game, while his angel took care of him for six good years, treating Kartikeya as his son.
Kartikeya performed well in the opportunities that he got in Delhi, but didn’t quite please the selectors as he was ignored in the trials. Sanjay Sir then instructed him to go to Madhya Pradesh and appear in trials for their state side. In the practice matches and trials, he picked 50-plus wickets in his first two years and Kartikeya was finally selected, but as a stand-by in the Under-23 lineup.
Things started to unfold from there on for Kartikeya as he was shortlisted for the Ranji Trophy trials for Madhya Pradesh in 2018-19 and this was his first step on the stairway to a cricketing career. A solid performance in Ranji Trophy for Madhya Pradesh, where he picked 35 wickets in nine games, earned him a call-up for the Vijay Hazare Trophy and that’s when Kartikeya finally decided to open up on his feelings.
Calling his father for the first time in six years, Kartikeya was very emotional as he could hardly hold his tears of joy but was happy at the same time. Following on the motivation of his father and coach to not stop there but go on further and chase the dream that they had all been seeing together, Kartikeya went about his business as usual.
Karthik debuts for MI
After getting a call from Rohit Sanghvi to come and bowl as a net bowler for Mumbai Indians (MI), Kartikeya had to pinch himself twice when he first saw Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar and other greats of the game in the Mumbai camp. Kartikeya's fortunes changed after an impressive year-and-a-half as a net bowler, when he was given his debut cap and represented Mumbai Indians.
Taking a wicket in his very first game, as he likes to call himself "The Mystery Bowler," was a relief man more than anything. His father, who is a policeman, arranged a screening of his debut match for his fellow battalions. Seeing the video shot by his father, Kartikeya was finally a proud man and an overwhelmed son, who would now be travelling back to his hometown to see his family after his "Vanvas" of nine long years.
Though this is a step closer for Kartikeya to wear the blue India jersey and making his family prouder than ever, one hopes the young lad who left Kanpur with empty pockets and eyes full of dreams continues to shed tears of joy and has pockets full of mystery balls for his opponents in the future.