Ravi Bishnoi used the googly for each of his four wickets in the final. (Source: Twitter/ICC)
The small lane outside ‘Masterji’ Mangilal Bishnoi’s house in Jodhpur is crowded, with more than a hundred well-wishers glued to TV sets. And there were almost as many in the hall indoors.
As leggie Ravi Bishnoi started to go through the Bangladesh top order and brought India back into the U-19 final with his four quick wickets, there was hope that it would turn the match in his team’s favour decisively.
He had already caught the cricketing world’s eye with his box of tricks and the control he displayed with the ball, and finished the tournament as the highest wicket-taker with 17 wickets. Not bad for a boy facing rejection at various trials a few years ago.
After all, Ravi is used to fighting against adversity from a very early age. Early on in his development, he even had to prepare the ground by doing manual labour as his village in Rajasthan didn’t have a proper cricket field.
His best efforts on Sunday couldn’t prevent Bangladesh from clinching their maiden U-19 World Cup, but Ravi’s performances throughout the tournament have prompted Mangilal, the head master in a government school, to remark that his son has made his chest swell with pride.
“I always used to say, ‘Has any boy from here played ever played for India? No Virat Kohli has emerged from here’, but he proved me wrong. Chhore ne kamaal kar diya (The boy has done wonders). He had said a day ago that he will bring the cup. He couldn’t but I’m happy he tried his best,” Mangilal told The Indian Express.
A few kilometres away at his academy in Shikargarh, which was built by young Ravi and his team mates through hard physical labour over, a big screen is placed on one corner of the ground.
His coach Shahrukh Pathan, whom Ravi considers his brother, said the academy wanted to share this moment with everyone. “By evening, more people turned up and the loudest cheers greeted the wickets taken by Ravi. Such days don’t come daily in life when we see a boy from our academy playing in a World Cup final,” Pathan said.
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Ravi earlier wanted to be a batsman and medium-pacer but his coaches felt he was best suited to be a leg-spinner. It was his trajectory that impressed them.
”For a leg-spinner,” Pathan explains, “if you go by the book, the left hand should come up straight like a clock hand at 12 o’clock. Bishnoi’s would come from, say, 11 o’clock. A bit like Anil Kumble, I would say, tilting a touch to his left side. That angle of release has helped the trajectory being a touch different from usual, and has also made his googly a bit more difficult to pick.”
”The googly skids on, and there’s not much time for the batsmen to adjust,” Pathan says.
Throughout the tournament, Ravi was a nightmare to face for every team, even their opponents in the final, even though they came up on the right side of the result.
“If you have seen the U-19 World Cup games, you can see a few batsmen seemed to realise that the ball is going to come in but the skid and the pace at which it comes made things difficult for them. You can’t play Ravi on the backfoot, as he will invariably rush on to the pads. Since the action and release is so natural for him, the speed on the ball does the trick,” Pathan says.
The struggles of the Bangladesh top order exemplified his point. They had no clue about Ravi’s googly. Finally, they decided to just defend against him and get their runs from the other end. They could afford to do so as they were not chasing a big score and were never under run-rate pressure. They knew if they handled Bishnoi, things will start turning in their favour.