IPL’s emerging stars: Abishek Porel, a rare success story from West Bengal - Hindustan Times
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IPL’s emerging stars: Abishek Porel, a rare success story from West Bengal

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May 21, 2024 07:49 AM IST

Be it batting at No.9 or opening as an impact player, Porel has shown heart to survive and thrive in the IPL

To be called up as Rishabh Pant’s replacement is no small feat. But the story goes that the 21-year-old Abishek Porel had slept through the first time Delhi Capitals called him to inform of his selection ahead of the 2023 edition of IPL. An injury during the pre-tournament camp had also messed with Porel’s fitness. When he did get a chance, it was all of four matches. Thirty-three runs off 31 balls was nothing to ride home about, but surprisingly he was retained for 2024. And he repaid the faith this time, scoring 360 runs at a strike rate of 152.54.

Delhi Capitals batter Abishek Porel celebrates his half-century against Rajasthan Royals during the IPL match in New Delhi on May 7. (PTI Photo)
Delhi Capitals batter Abishek Porel celebrates his half-century against Rajasthan Royals during the IPL match in New Delhi on May 7. (PTI Photo)

Porel hit 36 boundaries this season, joint highest for Capitals along with Pant. More intriguing is how Porel has achieved those numbers batting from No.1 to No.9 across 12 innings. He began this edition as Impact Player, coming in at No.9 against Punjab Kings and clobbering an unbeaten 32 off just 10 balls. And even though Porel’s first fifty came pretty late into the IPL, he did it off just 28 balls, that too opening the batting in place of Prithvi Shaw.

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Making Porel open the batting wasn’t a knee jerk decision. Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Porel had hammered 42 off 22 after coming in the second over at No.4. And a week before that, he had scored 41 off 31 at No.3 against Mumbai Indians. “Porel plays the new ball very well, and we wanted a left-right combination also, so we got him up the order,” said Pravin Amre, Delhi’s assistant coach, after that fifty.

Hailing from a cricketing family—his cousin Ishan is a pacer for West Bengal and has turned up for Punjab Kings—Abishek made his first-class debut in 2022, straightaway impressing with his clean takes and good hand-eye coordination. And he had opened in List A and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as well. So, when Pant was on the fence after a road accident, Delhi Capitals approached Porel on the advice of Sourav Ganguly, their director of cricket. From there, it has been onwards and upwards for Porel, entering the team as a lower order batter before slowly cementing his place.

“I’ve seen extreme growth in Abishek Porel in this IPL,” Ricky Ponting, Delhi Capitals head coach, had said last week. “In fact, looking back to the start of last season, obviously (with) Rishabh’s accident, we needed to bring in some wicket-keepers into our squad after the auction. We tried a lot of guys, a lot of guys that played, more senior guys than Porel, but the moment that I laid eyes on him, I knew that he was a very special talent.”

“I think, what we’ve seen in the last half a dozen games in particular, that talent’s really starting to shine through. He’s starting to work out what IPL cricket is all about. He’s had a couple of different roles as well. I’ve got huge raps on him. I’ll be surprised if he’s not at the top of the order again, because he has played really well, and he’s someone that I think has got a really bright future.”

These words must mean a lot to Porel who, to be fair, is still finding his feet. But by making him open again in Capitals’ last league match (against the Lucknow Super Giants), Ponting made it amply clear they are ready to invest as much time and resources as possible to make a proper cricketer out of Porel. This time, Porel again responded with a fifty, and a brisk one at that (off 21 balls).

Much of Porel’s strength lies in a thoroughly uncomplicated technique with no exaggerated movement or superfluous flourish. He can be a little edgy against quality spin but Porel more than makes up for that against pace, staying tall and using his long hands as levers to find his range.

Above all, it’s the heart to fight the odds that impresses everyone. Hovering in the fringes of an IPL team is a story many uncapped Indians share. Very few get a genuine crack at proving themselves, even less from West Bengal. And when they do, there is no guarantee minds won’t change next year. Porel has a different story though. To survive and thrive in a team stacked with clean hitters like David Warner, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Prithvi Shaw, Pant and Tristan Stubbs can be exacting. But Abishek Porel has done that, proving that there might be a place for him in IPL after all.

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