The star-studded Indian Premier League has taught Ravi Bishnoi how to handle pressure, how to adapt to different conditions and that it is important to accept defeats and move on.
The 20-year-old leg-spinner made his IPL debut for Kings XI Punjab in the 2020 edition. He picked up 12 wickets in 14 games and earned praises from his team-mates and former cricketers.
But it was certainly a challenging task for the young gun, who was one of the key members of the India U-19 side, which reached the final of the World Cup earlier this year. Not having played any cricket for nearly six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishnoi was unsure whether he will be able to play to his potential. Kings XI coach Anil Kumble, who is one of Bishnoi’s childhood heroes, motivated him in the practice sessions.
“It has been a great learning experience. What I learnt from Kumble sir was that it is important to have self-belief and never give up. During the training sessions, all he told me was to follow the process and not think about the result,” Bishnoi tells Sportstar.
“Anil sir told me that I should not doubt myself. He explained that it is important to stay positive and go with a positive mindset. We practised as if we were playing a match, so all those things actually boosted my confidence and reflected in my performance…”
It is not easy for a young cricketer to settle down in a team filled with superstars but captain K.L. Rahul kept the dressing room a happy place. “Match situations are different from training. Our captain KL Rahul was cool and calm and I also tried doing that. It did not matter if I took two wickets or conceded 30 runs, the idea was to stay calm. And that actually helped,” Bishnoi says.
With the players staying inside bio-bubbles for nearly three months, the atmosphere was different. “I had never played in such a scenario before. Life was all about shuttling between the hotel and the ground. So, there was nothing else to do,” he says. “But it also had its positives. Since you had no access to the outside world, you could focus more on the game…”
Even though he looked determined throughout the tournament, Bishnoi had some fanboy moments too. “After the game against Chennai Super Kings, I walked up to MS Dhoni and took his autograph. We did not get much time to talk about the game, but it was an incredible experience to meet someone like him, in person,” a thrilled Bishnoi says. “I have grown up watching him, so it was a really good feeling to meet him and spend some time… Those were great moments.”
This was the first time Bishnoi played in the UAE, where conditions were different. “If you continuously thought about the ground, then it would have been tough to concentrate. So, even though there were initial challenges, I ensured that I bowled my best. That was the only target,” he says.
Ravi Bishnoi cleaned up Rishabh Pant on IPL debut. – BCCI/IPL
While he focused on his bowling, captain Rahul gave him valuable inputs. “Since he was the wicketkeeper, he could see the ball better. So, between the overs, he walked up to me and advised me on how to approach in different situations. So, that was a really good thing.”
Ravi Bishnoi and K.L. Rahul appeal for an lbw while Pat Cummins looks on. – BCCI/IPL
The road ahead
After a successful stint with Kings XI, Bishnoi now wants to keep the momentum going. “I have not set targets. Now, I will prepare for the domestic season. I want to concentrate on my process and ensure that I improve on a few areas,” Bishnoi, who plays from Rajasthan in the domestic circuit, adds.
With political infighting continuing at the Rajasthan Cricket Association, Bishnoi failed to make it to the U-19 team and was even rejected at the trials in 2018. However, with former Rajasthan wicketkeeper and Rajasthan Royals’ fielding coach, Dishant Yagnik, backing him, the selectors gave Bishnoi another chance. In that trial in Jaipur, he picked up a wicket in the very first delivery, which paved the way for his entry into Rajasthan U-19 squad.
There hasn’t been looking back since. The youngster scalped a five-for in his first match of the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and slowly made it to the India U-19 camp and also featured for the Rajasthan senior team in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy. Now as he looks back at those days, he is grateful to his mentors – Shah Rukh Khan Pathan and Pradyot Singh. “I don’t want to bask in the glory or be over-confident. I have worked hard to come so far and now the only target is to stay grounded and dream bigger,” the youngster says.