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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

Under-19 cricket World Cup 2018: Ishan Porel, India’s braveheart from West Bengal

The Prithvi Shaw-led Indian U-19 cricket team will bank on the movement and accuracy of Ishan Porel in the final of the ICC U-19 World Cup final vs the Australian U-19 cricket team.

cricket Updated: Feb 01, 2018 10:13 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
The Prithvi Shaw-led Indian U-19 cricket team will bank on Ishan Porel in the final of the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup final vs Australia/
The Prithvi Shaw-led Indian U-19 cricket team will bank on Ishan Porel in the final of the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup final vs Australia/ (AFP)

Bibhas Das still remembers the text he sent nearly seven years ago. He had seen Ishan Porel only once after Anup Samaddar, a cricketer with Eastern Railway, had left a thin boy at Das’s academy in central Kolkata. “I had written to Samaddar, who had gone off to work, that ‘this kid will go far,’” Das said after Porel wrecked Pakistan’s top order with a haul of 4/17.

“He was around 11 and tall for his age. But what struck me was the pace he could generate despite being reed-thin,” said 56-year-old Das, who ran the academy alone from 1997 to 2012 when former India left-arm spinner and Bengal legend Utpal ‘David’ Chatterjee joined him.

Das speaks like someone who has taken a shine to Porel. Understandable that because since that monsoon day in 2011 when Samaddar got him over, Porel has become so much more than just another trainee. “There have been times when I’ve pushed him hard but Ishan never said no. He wasn’t scared of work,” said Das.

Since Porel prefers training in Kolkata and not Chandannagar, some 45 km away, where he is from, it is at the Das residence in central Kolkata’s Sovabazar where he usually puts up. For the Porels, Das is family.

That wasn’t how it started. The boy would be shepherded from Chandannagar to the academy by mother Rita. “She (Rita) would cook my lunch and their meals and leave with Ishan around 5:30am. Often, because of training, their days would be really long and they would be back only late in the evening,” said the bowler’s father Chandranath.

Initially, training would be thrice a week but when Porel became marked as the special one, it would sometimes be seven days a week. Some days Porel would be with an athletics coach who worked on his run-up because it was ungainly initially and also make him stronger, said Das.

Porel made the Bengal U-19 when he was 15 --- meant academics taking a hit but unlike most middle-class Indians Chandranath and Rita were cut from a different cloth. “Since he was good, we let him focus on cricket,” said Chandranath. In Aurobindo Bidyamandir, Porel also had a school that encouraged him to concentrate on swing and seam.

He quit school last year, said Chandranath. It was also the year when Porel debuted in the Ranji Trophy with a four-wicket haul against Vidarbha.

Chandranath and grandfather Subhaschandra were known for their kabaddi skills in Chandannagar and so it fit that Porel too would be initiated into sport early. The National Sporting Club in Chandannagar was the next obvious stop. From there through Samaddar, who lived in Chandannagar, it was to what is now known as the Utpal Chatterjee Cricket Academy.

Porel isn’t 100% fit yet, according to Das, after hurting his ankle against Australia. “He usually bowls at 140kmph but against Pakistan he was bowling at 128-130. I could make out that he wasn’t able to land his left leg properly but what stood out was his accuracy.”

India will need that again on Saturday.