Ishan Kishan, the Nice Guy Who Finished Last But Won Many Hearts

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Ishan Kishan, the Nice Guy Who Finished Last But Won Many Hearts

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

We’ve all been there. You study hard for an exam but end up with poor marks. You put everything into a work project but the output is shit. You give everything to a relationship but it doesn’t work out. That was Ishan Kishan on Monday night, sitting on the ground in the dugout, with his pads still on, watching his team crumble in the super over. Just short of tears, feeling dejected that he could do nothing to change the outcome, despite a stunning performance.

Ishan Kishan got his first opportunity at this year’s IPL, replacing Saurabh Tiwari in the Mumbai Indians squad. Opportunities don’t come easy at elite competitions but when they do, you have to make the most of it or there’s always someone else waiting to replace you. It’s a dog eat dog world. And the circumstances in which the 22-year-old came out to bat couldn’t have been worse, with Mumbai tottering at 16-2 chasing a mammoth 202 against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

It’s your first game. You want to get a feel of the wicket but there is little time to waste.

Difficult situations test temperament. Talent is almost never the question at the highest levels of the game; everyone’s exceptional. Ishan Kishan showed plenty of both last night, scoring a scintillating 58-ball 99, clearing the massive boundaries at the Dubai International Stadium nine times. He took some time to settle in, but then invoked his inner Tewatia and along with Kieron Pollard, almost pulled a miracle for the Mumbai Indians, scoring 90 runs in five overs.

But just like in life, even in cricket, our best sometimes is not good enough to get us through the line.

One can gauge the impact of Ishan Kishan’s innings from the fact that fans were furious that he didn’t come out to bat in the super over. As Rohit Sharma would later explain in the post-match ceremony, he was “drained” after the knock and “not feeling fresh”. One can’t blame him for falling victim to the harsh Dubai weather. While he was in top form, he would have to sit out and watch Hardik Pandya and Pollard struggle to time the ball. But Ishan Kishan has made his mark on this year’s IPL, and how!

Ishan Kishan’s IPL journey could be a Bollywood script. The pressure of the 2018 auction was such that his father was admitted to a hospital on the day due to high blood pressure. The then 19-year-old was witness to intense bidding, with Mumbai Indians finally managing to secure him at ₹6.2 crore. But then reality would strike, and though he scored runs, consistency was an issue and a poor streak only mounted the pressure. In the Netflix documentary Cricket Fever, Kishan once declined an interview after a game saying he was “fed up” and “didn’t want to talk about cricket”.

Coach Mahela Jaywardene provided astute analysis of his mental state, stating “For Ishan, his emotions are way too high when he’s doing well… and then he has one bad game, he goes really low.” It is something Kishan admitted as well, in an interview to ESPNCricinfo, saying, “In cricket, you have to be mentally very strong and if you feel under pressure you can sometimes change your game also. I’m a guy who gets happy when I score runs, and when I don’t, I am upset.”

Kishan didn’t play much in the 2019 season and saw Saurabh Tiwary start ahead of him in the first few games of the 2020 season. It must’ve taken a toll on the young southpaw, but when he got his chance, he showed the world what he was made of. Don’t we all love a good comeback story? It was Rahul Tewatia two days ago, and Ishan Kishan yesterday.

Mumbai Indians might have lost the game but Ishan Kishan won many a heart.

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