Ishan Kishan isn’t a new name in the emerging players’ pool. In fact, he was Rishabh Pant’s captain in the U-19 World Cup four years ago. The Jharkhand boy missed the international bus by a whisker, but it’s still early days; he is only 22.
He further slipped in the pecking order after a quiet Indian Premier League 2019 season — 101 runs in seven games — followed by a below average Deodhar Trophy for India A.
But Kishan seems to have found his mojo in the ongoing IPL.
The destructive 58-ball 99 against Royal Challengers Bangalore looked like an extended version of the 21-ball 62 he scored against Kolkata Knight Riders two seasons ago. Kishan is a little inclined towards the leg side but he has shots in the book to dominate all around the park.
Abhay Sharma, the fielding and wicketkeeping coach of India A and the U-19 side, feels Kishan definitely stands a chance to play for India. “He is a very talented guy and everybody knows it but somehow, he was not able to perform at that stage before. But now, he is picking up. We have been working with him and I feel he has the potential to play for the country definitely. He is equally good to all the names around [Sanju Samson, K.L. Rahul, Pant, K.S. Bharat]. He is also good with the gloves. The added advantage is that he is a very good fielder. At times, it goes in his favour but sometimes if he is not seen with the gloves, people may feel he may not be that good but I can assure you that he is a good ‘keeper,” Sharma told Sportstar.
Sharma has been grooming the young ‘keepers from the U-19 level, along with Rahul Dravid, and he had predicted the problem of plenty long ago. “The way we have been working on ‘keeper-batters in the past five years or more, you may have seen there are so many of them coming up. There will be more. There are a couple of very good wicketkeeper-batsmen coming from the U-19 level. You will see them in the next season,” he said.
Sharma feels Kishan understands his game better now. And that’s why he could be aggressive from his first game of the season. “He has matured as a player. He has started understanding his game more than anybody else. If you understand that, you start performing much better. Now, it is about hitting the consistency level. If you win a few games for your team, you will take a next step forward in your goals. People will see you from a different perspective.
“Basically, we are working on their mindset, plus skill sets. And that’s the key. That’s why they are maturing so fast now. Rahul [Dravid] has given me a free rein and I am thankful to him and The Board of Control for Cricket in India. The boys are putting in a lot of effort and the result is here for you to see.”
Score at the ‘A’ level
Kishan’s Deodhar Trophy 2019 scores for India A read 25 off 33 and 26 off 39. Though he came in at No. 6 in both the games, there weren’t too many deliveries bowled. The side had lost early wickets while chasing 303. Kishan had 23 overs to compose the chase when he walked in at 107/4.
And in the next encounter against India C, he had 32 overs to settle down and plan an assault but the target was 360-plus in this case.
Ishan Kishan plays a shot during a India A match against South Africa A. – Special Arrangement
Former India wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra, who is a visiting coach at the National Cricket Academy, feels Kishan can bounce back the moment he starts scoring for India A. “I felt Kishan’s keeping and batting will suit day’s cricket and Rishabh will be more of a shorter format player. I have worked with Ishan, and I feel he is technically good. He is a matured guy and you can gauge that when you talk to him. He has performed decently but in between, during a brief crucial time for a year-and-a-half, he couldn’t perform up to the standards he had set for himself at the India A and domestic level.
“He has done well in IPL [2017 and 2018]. One season didn’t go his way otherwise he was at par with other ‘keepers in the pool. With the bat, he needs to keep performing in the India A level,” said Ratra, who feels K.L. Rahul is perhaps here to stay post the international retirement of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
“Rahul is doing well as a ‘keeper. He has kept at the junior level too. He seems to be very settled. There is healthy competition now that Dhoni has retired,” he said.
Ratra, who played 12 ODIs and six Tests for India, praised the IPL for bringing out the wicketkeeping talent from across India. “The IPL has requirements for Indian ‘keepers and there are five or six of them. The tournament provides the limelight.”
Both Kishan and Pant made their IPL debut after the U-19 World Cup in 2016. The latter had a breakout season in 2018, scoring 684 runs including an unbeaten ton, which brought stardom. A year later, he smashed 488 runs at a strike-rate of 162.66.
On the other hand, Kishan’s IPL career never really took off despite starts. He scored 277 and 275 runs in the years when Pant was busy announcing his arrival.
After Sunday’s game against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Sharjah, Kishan stands at 853 runs in 40 IPL outings. He needs to convert the 30s, and a couple of more impact knocks could bring him back to the international selection table talks.