RP Singh Senior was, just like his namesake, a left-arm pacer from Uttar Pradesh who opened bowling for India. Photo courtesy: RP Singh Senior’s Twitter account
RP Singh Senior was, just like his namesake, a left-arm pacer from Uttar Pradesh who opened bowling for India. Photo courtesy: RP Singh Senior’s Twitter account

Rudra Pratap Singh Senior, born January 6, 1965, was a left-arm seamer who opened bowling for Uttar Pradesh. He played two ODIs, but remains a largely forgotten name, mostly because a younger namesake of his performed a similar role for India and was more successful at it than him. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at an obscure cricketer.

There were two left-arm seamers. Both were born in Uttar Pradesh. Both opened bowling for India.  One of them played 14 Tests, 58 ODIs, and 10 T20Is, on either side of 2010, taking 114 international wickets across formats. The other, a mere 2 ODIs, both in 1986, from which he got a solitary wicket. Both were, coincidentally, called Rudra Pratap Singh. And unlike the case of Robin Singh Junior, the RP Singhs seldom get suffixes.

The coincidence is astounding enough to make you think, even if for a second. There have been namesakes in cricket, sometimes accompanied by prefixes (WG Grace Jr, Victor Trumper Jr, Joe Hardstaff Sr and Jr, Robin Singh Jr, Rameez Raja II), or otherwise (Willie Watson, Andy Roberts, Imran Khan). Rarely, however.

RP Singh Senior played 59 First-Class matches, taking 150 wickets at 32.37 with 5 five-wicket hauls. The numbers seem unimpressive, but in the two seasons during his peak (1984-85 and 1985-86), his 48 wickets came at 24.04. The rest of his career saw him take 102 wickets at 36.29. In short, he was a bowler who peaked in his late teens, and faded away in his early twenties.

Early days

Born in Lucknow, RP made his way through CK Nayudu Trophy, playing for Uttar Pradesh Under-22s at a mere 16. He first made big against Vidarbha Under-22s, routing them with 8 for 28 and 4 for 29. The Ranji Trophy debut came at 17.

RP formed a somewhat unlikely trio with captain Rajinder Hans, the champion left-arm spinner 12 years older to him, and off-spinner Gopal Sharma. Against Railways RP claimed his only ten-wicket haul, with 7 for 67 and 4 for 79. Uttar Pradesh made it to the quarter-final that season, crashing out against Delhi. Of seamers, only Madan Lal finished with more wickets than RP Singh (25 wickets at 21.64) that season.

When Allan Border’s men came along the following season, RP Singh played them for India Under-25s. The locals scored 232 before RP removed both Geoff Marsh and stand-in captain David Boon. The youngsters saved the match. With the ODI series levelled 1-1, RP was called for the third match, at Hyderabad.

A brief career

Kapil Dev put Australia in, bowled first over, and brought RP on from the other end. It was one of those rare occasions where both opening bowlers in an international match shared birthdays. Kapil was born exactly six years before RP. Cricket statisticians must have been excited that day, discussing animatedly about Ray Illingworth and Derek Underwood and Richard Hadlee and Ewen Chatfield, who shared birthdays and often bowled together.

Greg Ritchie (75 in 53 balls) took Australia to 242 for 6 in 47 overs. Despite the fact that both Madan and Maninder Singh went for runs, RP bowled only 4 overs; he conceded 19. The match was washed out after India reached 41 for 1 in 10.4 overs.

India clinched the 6-ODI series, winning the next two matches, and recalled RP. Raman Lamba smashed a rollicking 102, and Kapil, playing as a specialist batsman, slammed 58 in 31 balls, reaching his fifty in a mere 26 balls. India finished on a steep 260 for 6 in 48 overs.

In response, Marsh and Boon added 68 for the opening stand. To be fair, things were not very difficult for them, as the Indian seam attack consisted of an ageing Madan and the inexperienced pair of RP and Rajinder Singh Ghai.

Once Marsh and Boon fell, Dean Jones carved out a 42-ball 55, adding 91 with Border in 79 minutes before he holed out to Lamba and became RP’s only international wicket. Border (91* in 88 balls) saw Australia to a 7-wicket win with 9 balls to spare. RP finished with 1 for 58 from 58 balls. It was RP’s (and Ghai’s) last international appearance.

When the Sri Lankans toured later that season, RP got a call-up for Indian Board President’s XI. Unfortunately, the tourists hammered them, scoring 504 for 4; all four wickets went to Maharashtra leg-spinner Sunil Gudge.

Fading away

RP Singh continued to spearhead the Uttar Pradesh attack throughout the 1980s before calling quits in 1995-96, forming the bridge between the generation of Hans and Gopal, and Ashish Winston Zaidi.

Against Vidarbha in 1990-91, RP walked out to bat at a precarious 80 for 6. He launched a ferocious counterattack, and by the time he fell for a 217-ball 141, Uttar Pradesh had reached 306 for 9. It remained his only First-Class hundred. He finished with 1,413 runs at 22.79, and went past fifty four more times.

RP married a British citizen, and subsequently settled in England. He played for Burnley in Lancashire League, for Hyde in Cheshire League, for New Brighton in Liverpool Premier League, and for Preston in Northern Premier League. He also made a solitary appearance for Lancashire Cricket Board against Staffordshire in ECB 38-County Cup, 2002.

When MCC toured Japan in 2014-15 to promote the sport in the country, RP was part of the side. He did a decent job, with 58* and 1 for 6 against Yokohama CC, 2 for 11 against Japan University XI, and 2 for 2 against a representative Japan side.

He did his post-graduation from Gloucester University, and went on to acquire the Level IV coaching certificate from ECB. Thereafter, he worked closely with Lancashire CC and ECB. His son and daughter both play age-group cricket in Lancashire.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)