Mohammad Shami and Arshdeep Singh are the leading wicket-takers for Punjab Kings in the ongoing Indian Premier League 2021. However, with nine wickets in just six games, young legspinner Ravi Bishnoi has emerged as Punjab's most impressive bowler. Importantly, only Moeen Ali and Shahbaz Ahmed have got a better economy rate than Bishnoi (6.08 RPO) after playing more than six games this season.
“Of course, you always want to pick a wicket on every ball but at the same time, you also know that is not possible. However, what is really more possible is to keep the batsmen in check by bowling a lot of dot balls and not allowing them the freedom to hit,” the 21-year-old, who is yet to play a first-class game for his state Rajasthan in domestic cricket, told Cricket.com.
His journey from the Under 19 World Cup in South Africa in 2018 to a lucrative contract of INR 2 crore in the IPL is the stuff dreams are made of. However, it is a little surprising to notice that the man who picked up 17 wickets from just six games and finished as the top wicket-taker in the junior World Cup is now more focused on containing the flows of the runs.
“The dot balls build the pressure on the batsmen and sometimes your partner from the other end will benefit from your efforts and that is all matters for us as we want our team to win. I try to bowl as many dot balls and build pressure,” elaborates Bishnoi over the phone from his team hotel in Dubai.
In his very first season, the right-arm spinner lived up to the expectations of his idol and head coach Anil Kumble by bowling tight overs for PBKS throughout the 2020 season and also managed to pick a dozen wickets. In the first leg of the IPL 2021, Bishnoi played in four matches and got as many wickets. However, he has been even more impressive in the second leg.
“We were all waiting for this IPL to resume and were eager to play and now we very happy to play again. In the remaining matches this season in UAE, we are trying our best to qualify first for the play-offs and then we would think about the trophy,” says Bishnoi.
As a young spinner, Bishnoi is not afraid of bowling against big names. He knows that in this format the legspinners are match winners. Rashid Khan is of course a magician but when specifically asked about three leg spinners in recent years in T20 who are not big superstars like the Afghan, Bishnoi makes some interesting observations on Samuel Badree, Imran Tahir and Amit Mishra.
“Badree’s accuracy with the new ball was outstanding and that is something you want to emulate as a leg spinner. Similarly, one wants the enthusiasm of Tahir who wants to bowl at any time and Mishra bhai is evergreen,” says Bishnoi who has bowled 54 dot balls so far in this IPL.
“Tahir always goes for wickets and Mishra is a traditional leg spinner who deceives the batters in the air with the traditional flight. The trio have been evolving and they have been playing for a long time and have performed incredibly well and have retained their class,” says Bishnoi in complete admiration of his seniors.
However, none has influenced Bishnoi more than his current coach Kumble. The iconic former India captain made his international debut even before Bishnoi was born. But in the Punjab dressing room, he comes across more like an elder brother. “He always tells me that follow the process. He emphasises that one shouldn’t be trying to do too many things at this level and should always have the self-confidence to do well,” says Bishnoi.
But, doesn’t he get overawed or intimidated at times by Kumble’s stature and presence in the dressing room?
“Anil bhai is a very friendly person and takes care of us. We enjoy his company and really don’t get overawed but yes he is hugely respected in the dressing room. At times, he would even laugh and join our joking sessions,” says the King’s leg spinner.
In the last game against Mumbai Indians, Bishnoi picked the wicket of Rohit Sharma which was on his wish-list for this season. “Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma are legends and who doesn’t want to pick their wickets? If my team can win from those spells, it will be great,” says Bishnoi.
However, when forced to pick one of the most difficult batsmen to bowl in this format, Bishnoi singles out the batsman who has incidentally been sent back to the pavilion twice by this young man. “Kohli, Dhoni and Rohit are are special and great players but for me, Suryakumar Yadav has been the most challenging. So, it is always more satisfying to outfox him."