Ishan Kishan: A young prodigy creating ripples much like a certain MS Dhoni did
So many of our dreams seem impossible at the inception, they then become improbable and as we march on, they assume inevitability.
Around 15 years ago when Pranav Pandey, a builder in Patna took both his boys to a cricket academy, with the intention of blooding his elder son as a future Indian cricketer, little did he know that the younger turk would surpass all his expectations and leapfrog into a brilliant young potential for the country.
"I was very young, could barely hold the bat but was very excited to be on the ground. My dad was serious about my elder brother, I was just there because I enjoyed the entire setting. I was so enthralled that despite my young age, I persuaded my dad to enrol my name in the academy and hence this journey began in a more formal way," Ishan Kishan, the young budding star from Jharkhand said in an exclusive interview to Sportskeeda.
However, the young man is quick to mention that although his name was registered, his father was not too kicked about his potential owing to the raw age and also due to the fact that he wanted his elder son to pursue the game in a more serious manner.
"My coach back in BCA asked my dad to invest more time and hope in me, but then papa was not very sure and even said that he is more concerned about my elder brother. But my coach was adamant and thankfully my father too agreed to give me a go," Ishan further adds.
The nation stood up to take notice of the young left-hander when he was appointed the captain of the Indian U-19 team for the 2016 World Cup.
"I was confident when I played in the Ranji Trophy earlier but then was very happy when I was appointed the captain of the team. It was a proud feeling, it was bound to be; a youngster representing his country, there could have been no better feeling," the diminutive player added.
However, the captain could not quite set the stage on fire in Bangladesh and although India made it to the finals, Kishan never got going right through the series. Call it fate, call it providence, the Indian team had a giant in the form of Rahul Dravid to mentor them through the tough phases.
"Obviously, I was very disappointed with my performances. Being the captain of the team, I failed to provide starts but it happens, ups and downs and part and parcel of the game. The influence of Rahul Sir was huge as far as my psyche was concerned.
“He could make out that I was not playing my natural game and this is where he sat down with me and asked me to play my natural game to not bother about the result. But then, I was in the midst of a rut and any shot which I played went straight to the fielders. It was a colossal learning curve for me," Kishan said.
"Sir's influence did not end with the competition, he spoke to me once we came back and asked me not to focus only on the IPL but to target all forms, especially the longer version. He told me that since I will more often than not play the new ball, I have to work on the footwork, more so when I am new at the crease," Kishan spoke about the impact of Rahul Dravid.
After an iffy U-19 campaign, Ishan was snapped up by Gujarat Lions and although he was not a regular starter in the squad, he was used as a finisher by the team and the young man showed his skills in the limited opportunities he received.
"See, the first season in the IPL was tough, I was a youngster out of the U-19 team and to be in the midst of so many stars was entirely a new experience. Also, I played lower down the order and this complicated things for me. I had only 3 or 4 overs to go out there and had to play my strokes from the word go which was very difficult, to be honest," he added.
However, there were a few bright spots during his stint and the southpaw was very clear on how he gained positives from the tournament.
"There was so much information and nuance in the dressing room and I made it sure to pick the brains of the many stars and imbibed all those suggestions in my game. I specifically remember talking to Suresh Raina and he gave me a lot of confidence and asked me to back my strengths and believe in my talent.
“Now I am working on such aspects and hopefully this season I can play a more significant role for my team," Ishan said.
All those suggestions, advice and techniques all seemed to come together for Ishan Kishan this season as he was amongst the top performers in the Ranji circuit and was one of the pivotal players for Jharkhand.
Jharkhand, a team which never could make it big in the Ranji Trophy punched well above its weight and after spending a number of years in ignominy, the side created quite a stir in the domestic season as it made it to semi-finals for the first time. The selectors invested in youth and finally after flirting with mediocre performances this approach yielded fruits.
Young Kishan was the fulcrum around which the entire batting rotated and in 10 matches he scored 799 runs at an astounding average of 57.07 and with a strike rate of 83.92.
So where did it all change for the 18-year old?
"Like I said earlier, Rahul sir had told me to work on my footwork and I went ahead and worked very hard with Rajiv Kumar, our coach and made sure that my footwork was under my control," Ishan said.
He further gave an account of the influence of MS Dhoni and how talking to him helped him tremendously.
"After the first match, Dhoni Bhai came in and I spoke to him for around 1 hour and asked him how to play long innings and get big runs. He asked me to curtail my strokes initially for around 20-30 balls as I had the ability to up the ante at any moment.
“He stressed a lot on the mental preparation... This is what I followed and results came my way. And yes, I would like to thank Ishank Jaggi too, he asked me to struggle for the initial periods before opening up and it worked wonders for me," Kishan spoke with a lot of gusto.
"I am a big fan of MS Dhoni and hence asked him about the footwork while keeping. He was very open hearted and gave me plenty of tips on how to move around and how to train even when I am resting. Techniques like rope catching, wall catching, practising against the edges while standing up to the stumps, he gave a proper tutorial.
“He also spoke about inculcating professionalism in my life as it would go on to help me in my career too. Well, what can I say, if I manage to imbibe even half of what he said, I would have done a good job with my career," the southpaw revealed.
After a stellar run in the Ranji season, Ishan was included in the India A squad to take on England and although the young man did not get a game he spoke about his experience around the Indian internationals.
"One big thing I learnt from the series was that one needs to have the same frame of mind while playing Domestic cricket or going on to play for India A. There is no need to change one's game and if I get an opportunity next time this will be my approach," Kishan said.
Being young has become synonymous with being vulnerable and in today's day and age when there are a lot of distractions around, how is a young upcoming star in Ishan Kishan remain grounded?
"Well, the best example for all young people like me is Virat Kohli. In many of his interviews, he has spoken on how he got distracted initially and in many ways, these pressers have become a guideline for us on the things which should not be done.
“I keep things simple, when I enter the ground, I want to focus on the game and make sure that nothing distracts me. Whatever you do off the field should remain there, once you enter the field, you have to enter the bubble," Ishan said.
There is no substitute for hard work and Ishan Kishan is a work in progress. There is a definite promise, potential and raw ability. It is all out there and needs to be harnessed and cultivated.
Dreams live on, careers are built on dreams and the young man is certainly dreaming big. When the dust settles down, persistence and constant doggedness are much of what separates the achievers from the pure wishful thinkers!