Ishan Kishan was destined for greatness since his age-group cricket days and is one of the stars from Jharkhand after former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Quickly rising through the ranks, Kishan became the India Under-19 captain for the World Cup in Bangladesh in 2016. After ending runners-up in the tournament, Kishan has seen teammates Rishabh Pant, Khaleel Ahmed and Washington Sundar all going to the India senior team much before him.
Kishan, meanwhile, is biding his time in domestic cricket and with Mumbai Indians, who bought him for Rs 6.2 crore last season. The wicketkeeper-batsman opened for MI in the first half of the previous season and had a horror start.
It took time aside with MI coach Mahela Jayawardene as well as a stint on the sidelines to get Kishan’s head back in the game. He finally repaid MI’s faith in him last year, scoring a scintillating 62 off 21 balls against Kolkata Knight Riders studded with 6 sixes, coming down the order.
This season, Kishan was in fine form for Jharkhand, especially in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, scoring back-to-back hundreds against Jammu & Kashmir and Manipur. In spite of his T20 form, Kishan had to wait till the fifth match of the season to get into the side.
“We have lot of good players in our team. We all know that we have to be on our toes and ready to perform when we get opportunity,” Kishan said ahead of the tie against Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday (April 10).
Kishan has big shoes to fill after replacing veteran Yuvraj Singh in MI’s playing XI.
“Yuvraj is a big player and replacing him comes with huge responsibility. That pressure also teaches me a lot,” the 20-year-old from Patna said.
It’s easy to forget that Kishan has just completed his teenage years. He often goes off track especially when it comes to the glitz and glamour of the IPL world.
Recently, Kishan became the first MI player to wear the ‘emoji’ kit of the franchise in back-to-back seasons. The kit has been designed by the franchise to keep players who have flouted team rules in check.
“There is so much competitive cricket going on, the main focus is on keeping fitness and form up. I kept talking to coaches like Zak (Zaheer Khan) and he told me to keep practicing and be ready for any opportunity,” Kishan said about spending time on the sidelines.
One of Kishan’s teammates is West Indian Alzarri Joseph, who he faced in the 2016 Under-19 World Cup. Asked about Joseph’s progress since that tournament, Kishan said, “In the U-19 he bowled really well and won them the final. Alzarri is bowling with great rhythm and bowled a great spell in the last match. He remains calm through ups and downs as well, has improved his line and length and reads batsmen very well now. He gets good bounce because of his height which makes it really tough for the batsmen.”
Finally, with wicketkeepers like Pant and Dinesh Karthik in national reckoning and even KL Rahul emerging as wicketkeeping option, does Kishan feel he has fallen back in the pecking order?
“I don’t feel I have fallen behind. I am only focused on playing cricket and improving,” he said.