Ravi Bishnoi, now world's top T20I bowler, to be a handful for Proteas

He has shown his class and character in series against Australia, says stand-in T20I skipper Suryakumar Yadav

(photo: @muffadalvohra/X)
(photo: @muffadalvohra/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It was from one leg spinner to another as Ravi Bishnoi replaced Afghanistan star Rashid Khan as the no. 1 ranked bowler in T20 internationals on Wednesday. The effervescent bowler’s player of the series-winning performance in India's recent 4-1 T20I series win against Australia saw him vault from fifth place in the ICC rankings to the top.  

The 23-year-old from Rajasthan, who took nine wickets in five matches in the recent series, deserves kudos for making his mark within a short time despite intense competition preventing him from having a regular place in the playing eleven. Since making his international T20 debut in February 2022, Bishnoi has picked up 34 wickets in 21 matches. 

His name will be the first to be pencilled in when Rahul Dravid & Co. plan their eleven for the three-match series against South Africa, starting with the first match in Durban on Sunday. "Ravi Bishnoi has regularly been doing well. The way he came back after his first game and won the player of the series award was great. He’s shown his class and character,’’ said stand-in T20I skipper Suryakumar Yadav after the home series win.    

In the batters' list, India’s Yashasvi Jaiswal rose 16 places to 19th position (581 points) while Shubman Gill (826 points) continued to top the chart. Incidentally, both Jaiswal and Bishnoi entered the frame when India finished as runners-up to Bangladesh in the 2020 edition of the Under-19 World Cup. 

The same year, Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Punjab Kings roped him in and for his first two seasons, Bishnoi had the opportunity to hone his skills under the legendary Anil Kumble — then chief coach with the franchise. Quicker through the air than a conventional leg-spinner, Bishnoi is not a big turner of the ball, but his unerring accuracy helps him maintain the pressure and achieve breakthroughs.  

Born in Jodhpur in Rajasthan, a state more famous for its desert terrain and royal palaces than its cricketers, the ride to stardom has not been smooth. ‘‘I began as a medium pacer at our local Spartans Cricket Academy. Shahrukh Pathan and Pradyot Singh, the two coaches who sacrificed a lot for a few of us, wanted me to try leg spin one day at the nets, and that’s how it all began,’’ he reflected in an interview a few years ago. 

‘‘However, the academy didn’t have place to practice. The coaches, believe it or not, left their jobs for us to set up the facility, where I put in labour also as we were short of money. There were some experts who developed the pitch and the ground, but I was breaking stones or carrying cement to them. Those six months were really tough, but once that academy was made, my formal cricket journey began. The hard work of those years is now paying off,’’ he added.

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