On Wednesday, Ravi Bishnoi became the 8th Indian men’s player to win the Man of the Match award on his T20I debut when his figures of 2/17 downed the West Indies in the first T20I of the 3-match series at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
Bishnoi received his debut cap from senior leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. He had a panicky start in the game: his first act was when he caught Nicholas Pooran at the boundary line but lost his balance and touched the rope for the batsman to get a maximum. Then he bowled a nervy first over, spraying three wides.
However, the 21-year-old turned the game around with two wickets in his second over – that of Roston Chase with a sharp googly and Rovman Powell, caught while slogging – handing India an upper hand. The chase of 158 was made easier by Rohit Sharma’s stunning assault at the top as the skipper smashed 40 runs off 19 balls.
There was a middle overs hiccup, but Suryakumar Yadav kept his composure and whacked 34* off 18 balls, finishing the chase along with another calm batter in Venkatesh Iyer who scored 24* off 13 balls as the hosts take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Bishnoi, in the post-match presentation, said that it was dream come true moment for him to contribute to India’s victory, that too on his debut.
However, the journey of young leggie has been filled with immense hard work and challenges. Bishnoi, hailing from Jodhpur, had to practice bowling in the fields. As a kid, he had toiled hard in the scorching heat of Rajasthan to help his coaches, Shahrukh Pathan and Pradyot Singh, start an academy.
Bishnoi’s father, Mangilal, was a headmaster at a government school and had demanded more attention and focus of his child on studies than cricket. Ravi faced his first major setback when he wasn’t selected in the top 200 in the Rajasthan under-19 trials, and had come back home crying.
It s when his coaches asked the youngster’s father to give them a couple of more years to shape Ravi’s career. A lesser-known fact about the cricketer is that he had started out as a medium-pacer – but looking at his thin and short physique his coaches asked him to bowl leg-spin; his action and body posture though needed a lot of tuning from the coaches, who also made googly his stock ball and his most deadly weapon.
That cutting-edge googly is what has become his USP. Something that went in his favour when Rohit Sharma and the Indian management decided to pair him up with Yuzvendra Chahal – two leg-spinners, but who turn opposite ways.
Picked up by Punjab Kings after his stunning performance in the 2020 under-19 World Cup, Bishnoi became the franchise’s premier spinner in the last two seasons – snapping up 24 wickets in as many games at an economy of less than 7. He was then picked up by the Lucknow Super Giants as one of the three first picks.
Indian skipper Rohit Sharma was effusive in praise for the 21-year-old wrist-spinner after the first T20I.
“Bishnoi is a very talented guy which is why we drafted him into the squad straight away. We see something different in him. He’s got lot of variations and skill-set with him. He can bowl at any stage and it gives us a lot of options to rotate the other bowlers. Very happy with his first game for India and he’s got a bright future and it’s just about us now on how we use him,” Sharma said.