Kumar Kartikeya Singh has been with Mumbai Indians from the beginning of the season, but as a net bowler. Only when Mumbai lost the service of Mohammad Arshad Khan due to a terrible injury, the franchise roped in Kartikeya in the main squad at a base price of Rs 20 Lakh.
And just two days later, Kartikeya justified his inclusion with an economical spell to restrict high-flying Rajasthan Royals to a below-par total. He also picked a crucial wicket of RR skipper Sanju Samson, and helped Mumbai snap a losing streak of eight games.
When Kartikeya came to bowl the first over of his IPL career, the commentators described him as “left-arm everything.” Technically, he is a finger spinner, but has also mastered the craft of wrist-spin, wrong ‘uns, and carrom ball to be effective in T20s.
“His action was so smooth,” his childhood coach Sanjay Bharadwaj told ESPNcricinfo. “His use of fingers imparted action on the ball.” When Kartikeya was unable to join cricket academies in New Delhi due to the exorbitant fees, it was Bhardwaj who decided to coach him pro bono.
But Kumar Kartikeya had to continue to work at a factory, 80km away from his academy, to meet his daily needs. After working the whole night as a labourer, he would walk to his academy in the morning to save Rs 10 for breakfast. Later on, Bhardwaj offered him a place to stay.
“When the cook gave him lunch, Kartikeya began to cry: he hadn’t eaten lunch for a year,” Bharadwaj said.
“Looking at his ability and dedication, I sent him to my friend and secretary of Shahdol Cricket Association Ajay Dwivedi,” he said. “He played division cricket there and took 50-plus wickets in his first two years.”
After his performance in the first game, Kartikeya has cemented his spot in Mumbai Indians playing XI. He will be in action tonight, as Mumbai takes on Gujarat Titans at the Brabourne Stadium.