Rajasthan Royals have unearthed yet another young prospect in their Indian Premier League journey. Kunal Singh Rathore is the first cricketer from Kota, Rajasthan to get an IPL contract, after his exploits in the 2022 Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament caught the eye of the Royals’ team management.

Starting his cricketing journey at the age of eight, when he visited the local academy along with his elder brother just by chance, Kunal has put in the hard yards to climb the domestic ladder for his state of Rajasthan. 

Wicket-keeping was a shortcut for Rathore to get to batting as he found out that fast bowlers did not get an opportunity to bat during practice sessions and quickly changed guard. 

Soon, Rathore was on his way to the Rajasthan Royals Academy camp in Nagpur, which he attended as an U17 player, as part of the Royal Colts and Royal Sparks initiative of the Rajasthan Royals. There, Rathore trained under the watchful eyes of Zubin Bharucha, Director of High Performance at the Royals.


Kunal Singh Rathore’s Rajasthan Royals call-up


Rathore had an ordinary first season with Rajasthan in first-class and List-A cricket. But, the left-handed Rathore made 147 runs at an average of 36.75 and strike rate of 128.94 in the T20 tournament to find his way into the Royals squad before IPL 2023.

“I was very happy, the family members also got emotional and they felt good too,” Rathore told Rajasthan Royals about his selection to the team.

Though Rathore did not play any matches for the Royals in IPL 2023, his first season there was a huge learning experience. 

“When I was picked, I met Riyan Parag, Dhruv Jurel and Yashasvi Jaiswal in the camp,” Rathore said. “Then I got to know that, the way the game is going on at this level, you have to put in that extra effort and be mentally strong. You have to improve your work ethic.

“I learnt these things from them at the start itself. Since it was the first year, there was not much pressure on me. They asked me to look at the setup thoroughly and enjoy the process.

“They also asked me to apply the learning that I get from here to the domestic matches I play. That was really helpful.”

During his debut season with the Royals, Rathore also got a chance to be in close proximity to Director of Cricket and Head Coach Kumar Sangakkara, who was also a wicketkeeper in his playing days. 

Kunal, who started as a fan of Australian keeper Brad Haddin, also spent time with fellow glovemen Sanju Samson, Dhruv Jurel and Jos Buttler learning the tricks of the trade.


Making his case


Kunal Singh Rathore is one among many promising players that Rajasthan Royals have groomed in the Indian cricketing scene, right from the start of the IPL in 2008. 

The Royals provided Rathore with all the exposure to take his game to the next level. During IPL 2023, he developed a strong work ethic and spent valuable time in developing his overall game with the Rajasthan Royals.

With emphasis on fitness and more hours of training behind him, Kunal returned to the domestic fold as a more confident individual. This time, he put in an improved performance for Rajasthan with both bat and glove.

In the Ranji Trophy 2023-24 season, Rathore scored 245 runs, including a maiden century against Manipur, averaging 40.83. He also earned 19 dismissals with the glove.

Rathore accumulated 250 runs in Vijay Hazare Trophy 2023-24, India’s premier domestic one-day tournament, at an average of 41.66 and got 24 dismissals, helping Rajasthan reach the finals.

In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he scored 107 runs at an average of 35.66 and his strike rate went up from 128.94 in the previous year to 152.85 in the current year. The southpaw’s attacking display with the bat, Rathore admits, helps him relate to his current favourite Quinton De Kock.

“After IPL 2023, Zubin sir asked me to put in more effort for the next level,” Rathore said. “He told me that you have to work on your mind and fitness as well. Because the next time when you come, there should be a difference and the team should feel that.

“I felt the difference when I went to the domestic circuit and whenever I played matches, I had belief in my training and work ethic. I was more confident and ready, no matter what the situation was.

“When I went there, I felt I was the pillar of this team and would take the team out of critical situations, though I was young. And that will create an impact and give me motivation to play ahead,” said Rathore on his improved display.

Kunal Singh Rathore, who mentioned that he would have been a lawyer for his good debating skills if not for cricket, is entering his second season with the Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2024.