"He can take any responsibility as a challenge" - Ishan Kishan's childhood coach says youngster ready to lead an IPL team in 2022

Ishan Kishan wanted to come to the auction, says childhood coach.
Ishan Kishan wanted to come to the auction, says childhood coach.
Rudransh Khurana

The last time Ishan Kishan's name got called up at an IPL auction, his father Pranav Kishan's blood pressure shot up and he had to be admitted to a hospital. When he later found out that his son had been signed by Mumbai Indians for ₹6.2 crore, he took off the BP machine and rushed home happily, saying "I’ll be fine now."

That was in 2018. When he was just a former Under-19 captain who had led India to their fifth final in the World Cup. He had played 16 IPL matches, scoring 319 runs. Kishan had also recently heard from MS Dhoni, in no unclear terms, that he should play for India in the next two years or won't justify his talent.

This is 2022. Ishan has played 61 IPL games with 1452 runs to his name. He's the only Indian with half-centuries on both ODI and T20I debuts. The southpaw has featured in the T20 World Cup as well. If potential got him ₹6.2 crore in 2018, proven talent is likely to fetch him much, much more at the IPL 2022 Auction, which will take place on February 12 and 13.

To gage feelings in the leadup to the big day this time, Sportskeeda caught up with one of the main drivers behind Ishan's success - his coach, mentor and family friend, Uttam Mazumdar. He said:

"Both of our families are very excited this year because he's already got selected for Team India and is playing well. We know how and from where our journey started and to now it's a very nostalgic feeling. I am seeing lots of comments from so many former cricketers and also from the likes of Harsha Bhogle and everybody's saying that he'll bring a lot of excitement to the auction table this year with regards to his price. We'll get to know that only on February 12-13 but we are excited. We hope he scales newer heights and may God bless him for it."

But the excitement hasn't caught up with Kishan yet. Mazumdar says he's trying to keep the youngster relaxed and focused on the impending international assignment. He explained:

"He's very normal (chuckles)... We don't discuss these things. I always try to keep him easygoing because these things only increase the pressure. And I don't want to give him any extra pressure. It's all part of the game. I try to keep him as relaxed as possible. [I told him] there's no need to think about these things, you just do your practice and focus on the upcoming West Indies series. These things will come and go."

Before 2018, Kishan was a hard-hitting youngster who could also keep wickets. He played like a hit-and-miss floater for the now-defunct Gujarat Lions, batting in every position from No.1 to 7, struggling in some, while doing well in others.

In 2022, his skills are now more compact. He has found his best spot as an opener. He is sublime as ever against spin in the middle overs and can take out entire pace attacks from the first ball. His wicketkeeping skills have also only got better with time.

It's this potential that has made national selectors pit Kishan against the likes of KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan for the opening spot in India's white-ball teams. He was initially included for just the T20Is against the West Indies, but after Dhawan and Ruturaj Gaikwad contracted COVID-19, he's now also set to open alongside Rohit Sharma in the ODI rubber, which begins on Sunday.

Ishan Kishan wanted to come to the auction: Uttam Mazumdar

It’s been a journey that’s changed my life, professionally and personally. I’ve made friendships, grown as a player, person and I’m always grateful for the experience.

Kishan's career took off after a bumper season for the Mumbai Indians (MI) in 2020. He top-scored for the franchise with 516 runs - 13 more than Quinton de Kock who played three more innings than him. His average of 57.33 was the best in the top-10 run-scorers, while his strike rate of 145.76 was only behind AB de Villiers'.

For the entire season, he looked like the X-factor in a team that never seemed to need X-factors. Ishan's impact was so stark that when he and Suryakumar Yadav struck poor form last season, the Mumbai Indians looked lifeless and bewilderingly circumspect, failing to even make it to the playoffs after winning the titles in 2019 and 2020.

They looked in their element only in the last game of their season against SunRisers Hyderabad. Kishan, finally given a chance to open in IPL 2021, scored a breathtaking 34-ball 84 and Yadav followed it up with a sizzling 40-ball 82. MI ended up with a score of 235-9, eventually winning the contest by 42 runs.

In this context, it came as a surprise that the five-time champions couldn't strike a deal to retain Kishan. Mazumdar, too, was surprised but not at all disappointed. He revealed the southpaw himself wanted to roll the dice by sitting at the auction.

Mazumdar elaborated:

"A little bit surprised [that Mumbai Indians didn't retain him] but we were never disappointed because I felt he wanted to come to the auction... Mumbai Indians retained him last time as well but this time he wanted to come to the auction. This is also a great feeling. We can see how well he's playing and he's a hot property for any franchise."

One of the bigger reasons why Kishan will be sought after at the auction is his age. Apart from being a multi-dimensional player, he is also just 23. Franchises see him as a long-term investment - similar to the Delhi Capitals-Rishabh Pant deal - where they can groom him under a senior while gradually making him the face of the team. There's a massive chance he could be the biggest signing of the upcoming season.

But for now, the coach, though confident about what his pupil brings to the table, isn't thinking about that record.

Mazumdar said:

"Time will tell that (if he'll be the most expensive player) and it's not too far away either. But how's he playing... He's the only cricketer to score fifties on One-Day and T20I debuts. The last few IPL seasons have been good for him too. And what do the franchises look for? He's an opening batsman and also a wicketkeeper which is a bonus and a good asset for any team..."

Mazumdar even feels that Kishan surprisingly missing out on the marquee player list won't impact his price at the auction. He stated:

"No there's no such thing (that marquee players have a better chance of going at a higher price). It depends on the franchise and their mentors because they have to make the team. And everyone knows what kind of player Ishan is and that he can be an asset for any team. Marquee players and name coming first or not doesn't matter."

Ishan Kishan - the next young IPL captain?

Final prep 💯 Game ready 🇮🇳

At least three of the 10 IPL teams need a captain this year. Others like Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings will need one soon as well. So what if Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kolkata Knight Riders or Punjab Kings want Ishan to take up the leadership role right away? Is he ready? Mazumdar said in this regard:

"He has good experience of captaining the India U-19 team where top guns like Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar, and Khaleel Ahmed played under him. Ishan has also captained Jharkhand in the 2018-19 season. So he has good experience behind him. It all depends on the franchise - which franchise gives him that kind of a chance. I always tell him to be ready for any opportunity and never to say no. And he's such a player that he can take any responsibility as a challenge. We've seen all the leadership qualities in him when he took the team to the final. Unfortunately, we lost but the team played very well under Ishan's leadership. I feel that whatever chances come his way [he'll be ready]."

Leading an IPL team as a 23-year-old won't be easy. But there's evidence to support that it won't be impossible either. Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer both took the job at 23 and have reaped success. Virat Kohli and Steve Smith got to wear the captaincy band at 22 and, though without trophies, have been successful too.

For a side like the Punjab Kings, who are bereft of big names and are struggling to shrug off past baggage, Ishan could even be the perfect man to help them hit the reset button. For Chennai Super Kings, he could be the ideal replacement for his idol MS Dhoni.

But Mazumdar's heart still lies with Mumbai Indians. Asked which team he wants Ishan to go to, he said he'd be "more than happy" if Rohit Sharma and co.bring the youngster back to the blue and gold fold. He concluded by saying:

"He's mostly played for MI and everyone knows that MI's such a great team and he's done very well for them too. So I'll be more than happy if they only pick him (chuckles)."

A young prodigy in Bihar, a rare talent in Jharkhand, a future star in Gujarat and a critical batting cog in Mumbai - Ishan Kishan's journey so far has been nothing short of a blockbuster.

He'll arrive at his next destination as an established star, well-poised for an extended run of peak form. Irrespective of the price, any team that sign him will be the bigger gainer.

Edited by Samya Majumdar


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