Ravi Bishnoi idolises Shane Warne, but neither his bowling action nor approach are similar to the Australian legend. There is a bit of Anil Kumble and some Rashid Khan to his action. While Warne was a classical leggie, Bishnoi, like Khan, has more hustle during release, and a longer run-up like Kumble.
Like Kumble — his Kings XI Punjab head coach — Bishnoi too started off as a medium pacer. “The coaches in Jodhpur once saw me bowling leg spin casually without run-up; they were impressed and told me, I should try this. I worked hard at it and got better. So, the leg spin is mixed in a medium pacer’s run up,” he says.
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Bishnoi, last seen in the U-19 World Cup where he took the highest number of wickets, could become a key weapon for KXIP on the slow UAE wickets. He will be competing with leggie Murugan Ashwin for a place in the playing eleven. Karnataka’s left-arm spinner J Suchith is the other spinner who takes the ball away, but he is more conventional. Bishnoi does not rely on his leg-spin alone. He frequently surprised batsmen with googlies in the youth World Cup. While the wrong ’un scripted his success story there, some experts have advised him to focus on his leg spinners.
In Kumble, Bishnoi has just the right point of contact to decide what his stock ball should be, and how frequently he should bowl the googly. “So far, my talks with him have been on reading match situations, because the stage is going up a notch. To try and hit areas that would work better,” he says. “I have been working on my leg spinners and varying the pace of my deliveries. I will use the googly when the need arises.”
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Mastering the flippers with Kumble is on Bishnoi’s to-do list. Having Kumble by his side is a bonus to his Rs 2 crore IPL contract. “I have seen his 10 wickets against Pakistan so many times on YouTube. And, now here he is. It’s like a dream come true — where I was, and now I am bowling with him,” he says.
After his four-wicket haul in the U-19 World Cup final that India lost, Bishnoi had planned to keep the tempo going in the summer-IPL, and target breaking into the India team in a year. “It was a setback, but it’s the same for everyone. The target still is to deliver in the IPL. It’s a big stage that the world, including the selectors, are watching.”
Bishnoi has watched lots of IPL reruns during the lockdown. “Earlier, I watched for enjoyment. Now I look at which player is performing and how, his strengths and weakness, how the bowler is delivering, which areas is he hitting. I watch the matches a lot more closely, and think of what I would have done differently, in the same situation.”
Having done his home-work, Bishnoi is ready to make a mark. Any prized scalp the 20-year-old is targeting in his first IPL? “I will take whatever comes. But yes, I would like to get Steve Smith out. He is the No1 Test batsmen and he plays spin very well.”
Wouldn’t that also leave, Shane Warne sitting in the Rajasthan Royals dugout, impressed? “Haan, woh bhi hai,” he laughs in approval.