|| AFP ||
Indian batsman Rinku Singh on Wednesday nearly pulled off victory for Kolkata Knight Riders with his 15-ball 40 in an IPL thriller, leaving coach Brendon McCullum impressed with his fighting ability.
Rinku, a left-handed batsman, smashed a four and two sixes off Lucknow Super Giants fast bowler Marcus Stoinis in Kolkata's attempt to chase down 210 in Mumbai.
But he fell to a stunning one-handed catch by Evin Lewis on the penultimate ball as Kolkata crashed out of the tournament in their final league match of this season.
McCullum, a former New Zealand skipper who is set to join England as coach ahead of a three-Test series against the Kiwis in June, wished Rinku and Kolkata best for their future in the Twenty20 tournament.
"Rinku is a player who KKR will invest in, no doubt, over the next few years and will see him really progress and maybe even challenge for higher honours in time," McCullum told reporters after Kolkata's two-run loss.
"Not too many people are able to bat in the middle order and be able to try and pull games out of the fire like he has done for us on a couple of occasions."
He added: "I am heading in a different direction with the challenge of being able to coach England in front of me. But I will be following all of the KKR boys and particularly Rinku as well. Really wish him all the best."
McCullum coached two-time champions Kolkata to a runners-up spot in the previous IPL edition that started in India but completed in the United Arab Emirates due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Led by India's Shreyas Iyer, Kolkata finished with eight losses and six wins in 14 matches this season, but McCullum said the team will come back stronger in the next edition.
"I had a great time over the last few years, we didn't get it done this year but I think we played some great cricket. Last year was an amazing story," said McCullum.
"I'll follow this team moving forward and I know they are in really good hands in Shreyas (Iyer) as skipper and all the support staff as well. Watch out for KKR next year."
McCullum famously smashed an unbeaten 158 off 73 balls for Kolkata in the very first match of the inaugural IPL in 2008.
The 40-year-old, renowned for an attacking approach during his 101-Test career which ended in 2016, was last week named as the new head coach of an England side that has won only one of its past 17 Tests.