Ranji trophy cancellation disappoints Ishan Porel
From playing FIFA on Playstation to binge watching web series on Netflix, Ishan Porel is like any other 22-year-old when he is not playing cricket. Standing tall at 6 feet 3 inches, the fast bowler from Bengal transforms himself totally with the ball in his hand.
While he may not be as fast as his contemporaries like Kamalesh Nagarkoti or Shivam Mavi, Ishan more than makes up for it with accuracy and swing. Coming on the back of a brilliant Mushtaq Ali campaign where he picked up 13 wickets, the speedster is now busy playing the Vijay Hazare trophy, BCCI’s domestic competition in the 50-over format.
His team hasn't fared too well in the tournament. There are two matches to go, but Bengal is pretty much out of contention. Yet, before the matches began Porel was happy about his "balanced" side. Talking to The Telegraph Online when the tournament was about to start, Ishan sounded confident. “We have a pretty balanced side with power hitters like Sreevats Goswami and Vivek Singh owning the opening slot. In the middle order, we have experienced batsmen like Abhimanyu (Ishwaran) Anushtup da (Majumder). Lower down the order, there’s Kaif Ahmad who can hit the ball a long way. As a bowling unit too, I feel we have the right mix of youth and experience. Moreover, we have a range of spin bowling options with Shahbaz (Ahmed) and Arnab (Nandi) complementing each other.”
But then, that's cricket. It all depends on how a team performs on the day.
But Ishan is someone who has immense love for the game, so much that he doesn’t mind being in quarantine for six days before every tournament as long as he gets to play. “I have been doing it (being in a bio-bubble) since last year’s IPL. So it’s nothing new for me.”
The Indian cricketing fraternity was heart-broken when BCCI announced that the Ranji Trophy was being cancelled this year. Ishan is no exception. “Obviously I’m disappointed. Ranji is something all domestic cricketers look forward to and I was waiting eagerly to return to red-ball cricket. I had a good Ranji stint last year where I got 23 odd wickets in six matches. So, I was confident of doing well this year too. But we should actually thank the BCCI for organizing the T20 as well as the 50-over domestic format when no one was expecting cricket to resume any time soon in India even a few months back,” he says.
The Punjab Kings pacer also feels that the cancellation of the tournament can be a blessing in disguise with Indian Premier League (IPL) just around the corner. “After the Vijay Hazare, IPL is going to come calling and playing back-to-back tournaments with the white ball is going to help me,” he says.
On the big money tournament, the Chandernagore boy reminisced about the auction days of 2018 and 2019 when he went unsold. “I was a bit upset about not being picked by any franchise. It was disheartening to see all the teammates that I’ve shared the dressing room with in the U-19 World Cup being bought and doing well for their respective teams while I watched the games on TV. But those days made me mentally stronger, boosted my will to improve as a cricketer and instilled a desire in me to come back stronger. I was immensely happy when Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) showed faith in me in the 2020 auctions. IPL is a great platform for any young cricketer who is eager and waiting for his chance to make a mark in the game,” he believes.
On the IPL's impact, Porel says, “Just being with the team for three months, watching the players go about their preparations before a game, has helped me a lot. My fielding has improved, thanks to Jonty Rhodes who works hard. I’ve learnt quite a few new things from Mohammed Shami and our coach Charl Langeveldt. I’m more confident about myself now. If I get games in this year’s IPL, I’m positive about making the opportunities count.”
Porel sounded confident about this year's Punjab Kings team and believes the side has the right kind of balance needed to lift the trophy. “Our franchise has bought some good players to strengthen the team keeping the core intact. The addition of Jhye Richardson, Dawid Malan, Moises Henriques and Shahrukh Khan will definitely add more value to the team,” he opines.
Injuries have been a constant companion of Porel, be it the 2018 U-19 World Cup or this year’s Australia tour where he was picked as a net bowler for Team India but had to pull out at the last moment. He is not someone to get bogged down by setbacks though. “Injuries are inevitable if you’re a sportsman. What matters is how quickly you recover and bounce back. After the recent injury, I was not sure about how impactful my comeback would be in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy but all the hard work that I put in after my injury reaped dividends and I found my rhythm right from the start.”
On Rahul Dravid's contribution as India’s U-19 coach, Porel can't thank the batting great enough. “I got injured after playing our first match of the tournament. I was depressed, thinking about returning home when Rahul sir came to me and said, 'Don’t think about anything else other than making yourself fit and available for the quarter finals. We want you to play in the knockout stages and you will be our first choice if you are fit.'
“Those kind words coming from a stalwart like him helped me boost my confidence. His calmness in the dressing room and immense expertise was one of the main reasons behind India lifting that World Cup. “
On being asked about his chances of playing for the national team in the next couple of years, Porel says he doesn’t want to burden himself with that thought and pressure. “Look, it’s a process. I’m just focused on performing consistently for now. I believe no good performance goes unnoticed. If I keep giving good performances in the IPL and domestic tournaments, sooner or later I will be considered (for the national team). But as of now, I’m focusing on my next match.”