Jayawardene talked about how Ishan Kishan. who made a rousing international debut against England, was addicted to gaming, was occasionally lazy and used to arrive at net sessions without an objective in mind.
During an interaction with Cricbuzz, Mahela Jayawardene revealed the effort that went into making Ishan Kishan focus on the right things and rediscover his mojo. He said in this regard:
"You must've seen in the Netflix documentary. We had to train him with all his bad habits off the field too. Bad as in not partying but that he was gaming a lot. Keeping Ishan focussed, as a coaching group, is a constant effort".
"Sometimes he walks into practices not focussed on the job in hand. After he plays the first few balls, if I know his mind is not there or his feet are not working, I pull him out of the nets and ask him, 'what do you want to achieve from the net session?' I tell him, 'If you don't want to achieve anything, then go sit out.' For me, whatever 20 minutes or half an hour the guys put in, each session has to be productive".
MI had shelled out a whopping INR 6.2 crore for Ishan Kishan in 2018 when the player was still trying to find his feet in domestic cricket. He was a prodigy, without any doubt, but the franchise's coaching staff found it difficult to know what made him tick.
Jaywardhane was the first one to crack that code. In a must-win game against Kolkata Knight Riders in 2018, the Sri Lankan legend promoted Ishan Kishan to No. 4 and gave him some precise instructions:
"KKR have spinners bowling. Just take them on and get 30 runs in 10 or 15 balls. That's the momentum I want," Jayawardene recalled telling Ishan Kishan.
Ishan Kishan notched a 21-ball 62, lifting the team' from 62 after nine overs to 144 after 14.4.
"I learned that day that he wanted that kind of clarity. From that point onwards, I tried to give him that kind of instruction and clarity. I felt that the more he thinks, the more he gets into trouble. Like his state coach was saying, sometimes he tends to make easy situations tough because he sometimes overthinks unnecessarily," observed Jayawardene.
"You are our no. 4; this is how you need to bat; this is the tempo" - Mahela Jayawardene to Ishan Kishan
After finding out that Ishan Kishan could flourish if he has clarity about his role, Jayawardene and co. decided to deploy the left-hander at no. 4 in MI's IPL 2020 campaign.
Ishan Kishan vindicated Jayawardene's trust, top-scoring for the champions with 516 runs at a fabulous average of 57.33.
"Last year, we decided that he will be our No 4. We could give him that role and tell him: 'You are our number 4; this is how you need to bat; this is the tempo.' That is probably how it came around to him getting that responsibility," said Jayawardene.
The Sri Lankan legend continued:
"In a couple of games, Rohit got injured, and he (Ishan Kishan) got to open the batting, which also helped him because that's his natural place in the T20 format. But in the MI environment, he has to play to our strengths. We feel that he is a versatile player, bat in the top 4 and get the job done for us".
Ishan Kishan will look to hit the ground running in IPL 2021, continue his rich vein of form and stake his claim for the no. 4 spot in India's T20 World Cup squad.
Defending champions Mumbai Indians open their IPL 2021 campaign against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Chennai on April 9.