IPL 2020: Will the real Ishan Kishan please stand up?

IPL 2020: On Monday, Ishan Kishan grabbed the lifeline thrown at him and fought tooth and claw for a brilliant innings for Mumbai Indians.
IPL 2020: Ishan Kishan’s knock of 99 nearly saw Mumbai Indians home.(IPL/Twitter)
IPL 2020: Ishan Kishan’s knock of 99 nearly saw Mumbai Indians home.(IPL/Twitter)
Updated on Sep 30, 2020 08:46 AM IST
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A team needs five off two balls. At the crease is a man who has only come into the playing XI because of an injury to the batsman who usually occupies the spot; he is one run away from a maiden Indian Premier League century, a few runs away from completing a breathless chase. A young batsman whose own precocity - when he was 17 people were already talking of him as the next MS Dhoni - has meant that at just 22, most people write him off as a has-been.

Also Read | IPL 2020 Full Coverage

This story should end in a century and a win, but no, this is Ishan Kishan’s story. It ends in him holing out a yard short of the boundary at 99. It ends in him sitting utterly drained, head in his hands, watching his team lose the match on a Super Over after having engineered a masterclass of a chase.

Also Read | ‘Little fellow, huge power’ - Twitter hails Ishan Kishan for fabulous knock

Kishan is well acquainted with this awful feeling on being nearly-there.

When he emerged as one of India’s best young wicket-keeper batsmen in 2015, the Patna boy was fast-tracked into a Jharkhand side brimming with talent - Saurabh Tiwary (the man he replaced in the Mumbai Indians match), Varun Aaron, Ishank Jaggi, Shahbaz Nadeem - all names that India selectors had to sit up and take notice.

Also Read | Rohit Sharma explains why he didn’t send Ishan Kishan to bat in Super Over

Kishan had good technique, the ability to explode with the bat, and oodles of flamboyance.

He also had Rahul Dravid as mentor during his formative years. This was the time Dravid was putting together one of the finest U-19 teams ever, the likes of Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar, Sarfaraz Khan, Khaleel Ahmed and Avesh Khan. Come the 2016 U-19 World Cup and Kishan was picked to lead the team. This was a boy being nurtured for a great future. Runs, however, deserted Kishan when it mattered most. India lost the U-19 World Cup final to West Indies but Kishan finished the tournament with the worst average among the batsmen in the team he led.

When the IPL arrived that year, the 17-year-old Kishan was nonetheless picked up by the new-defunct Gujarat Lions on the basis of his promise. He endured a season of failure and then another of mediocrity. But the promise remained. He was still just a teenager. When the big-spending Mumbai Indians wanted an Indian wicketkeeper-batsman for their side in 2018, they zeroed in on Kishan. They parted with a huge sum - Rs6.2 crore - for him. It didn’t really work out; Kishan offered brief flashes of brilliance and then floundered. He watched as Pant, his deputy at the 2016 World Cup, quietly pulled ahead in the race to be India’s wicketkeeper-elect.

The Netflix series ‘Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians’, showed Kishan’s struggles. Batting coach Robin Singh contended that Kishan didn’t know how to build innings at one point in the show, which is based on Mumbai’s 2018 season.

“He just wants to hit everything,” Singh said. “He can’t work the ball. He could use a little more intelligence.”

As the failures on the pitch piled up, focus began to turn, unfavourably, at Kishan’s flamboyance, his off-field love for bling and ink.

People remembered that he was once arrested for reckless driving in Patna, just a week before the U19 team was set to leave for the 2016 World Cup.

In the documentary, after Kishan finishes a session with the team nutritionist, she says “Ishan needs a little more discipline.” In another scene, he is at the gym, being his usual yappy self, but strength and conditioning coach Paul Chapman isn’t impressed. “You’re not applying yourself, you’re basically being a d***head,” he tells Kishan.

But there is another side to the Jharkhand keeper. The one that saw him smash 273 against Delhi in the Ranji in the 2016-17 season. The one that saw him score a fiery 87 on a woefully underprepared pitch tailored for a rampaging Ravinder Jadeja at Rajkot - he was 17 then, playing his first Ranji season for Jharkhand.

The one that, on Monday, grabbed the lifeline thrown at him and fought tooth and claw for a brilliant innings.

Which side of Kishan will we see through this IPL?


    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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