‘Chhota dynamite’ Ishan Kishan delays his explosion

Ishan Kishan used to be impetuous in the past, trying to hit out from first ball to his own detriment but has now understood the importance of taking his time before hitting out.

When Ishan Kishan burst into the domestic team as a fresh-faced teenager reputed for his explosive batting, his senior teammates spun a nickname for him. He was called chhota dynamite, as he was then short and scrawny yet equipped with a range of powerful strokes. Since then, he has grown a few inches taller, his biceps are defined and forearms toned beneath the inked head of a Roman god, a ripped constitution, and has cultivated a stubble to complement the earrings.

But the moniker chhota dynamite has not lost its resonance, rather it has never been apter than this season. It was the season the dynamite exploded in its full fury in the Indian Premier League, leaving a trail of destruction on hapless bowlers, the best of them still living to tell the story. He’s the joint highest run-getter for his franchise with Quinton de Kock (483), but took him just three innings fewer and at a better strike rate and average than the South African, besides from different positions in the batting order, reflecting his adaptability to different roles.

Recount some of the situations he had walked out into this season. At no 4 with his side teetering on 2/16 in pursuit of 201. He responded with 99 off 58 deliveries. Then as an opener against Chennai Super Kings after Rohit Sharma was injured, he put Quinton de Kock to shade with an unbeaten 68 off 37 balls. He then wore the death-over destroyer role with his 55 not out of 30 balls against Delhi Capital in the first qualifier. Between, he has been a middle-over knockout artist too. The roles were different, but he blended imperceptibly into the character the roles demanded, demonstrating that he has finally decoded the hitherto elusive consistency code.

Toning down aggression has been the marked difference of his game, observes close friend and Jharkhand teammate Ishank Jaggi: “Earlier what used to happen is he used to try and hit from the first ball. Many times, the result didn’t go in his favour. Now he takes his time, takes 10-15 balls to settle. He has understood that the more he spends time at the crease the better he will do.” In the process, he also stashed an array of strokes like the ramp and the reverse sweep.

Two years, Dhoni had given him similar advice during a domestic game. “He told me that since everyone knows you are an attacking player, you can’t keep being in that mode all the time. You need to know when to slow down, and go back into your zone”,” he had recollected in 2018.

Take for instance his half-century against Delhi Capitals. At one stage, he was 10 off 13 deliveries, resisting his urge to go bonkers. Mumbai had just then lost Suryakumar Yadav and Kieron Pollard, so he shelved the big strokes, which he recommissioned at the death overs. In the next 17, he scored 32. Against Bangalore, in the tied game, he was 25 off 24 balls. The next 34 balls bargained 74 runs.

In that sense, he’s a more aware batsman, who knows that he has the game to make up for dot balls. It’s an aspect of the game he has picked from watching Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya. “I know how they plan the game. It’s just not only about power, (but also) how they take the game to last over or how they put pressure on the bowlers also at the same time how they rotate the strike,” he had said in an interaction with the press.

Work on his game

He has worked on his game, as well. Depending on the length, he could clear the front leg for the slog-sweep, swivel for the pull, or move across for the lashing cuts. He gets quickly into position to play those strokes—most instructive was his pulled-six off Kagiso Rabada in the qualifier. The ball was short and fast, but he just stood where he was to swivel-pull it. Remarkable was his bat-speed, which Jaggi reckons is fundamental to his success. He strikes through the line with just a hint of those rubbery wrists for added power.

He is not as compulsive a cover-driver as most left-handed batsmen. Even when cover-driving, he doesn’t lunge forth, just hangs on the back-foot and punches on the rise. Faster, bouncier surfaces would offer a sterner examination of his technique. But on flat surfaces, the technique works clockwork and explains his leg-side predilection.

The 22-year-old is a leg-side bully—as many as 21 off his 29 sixes were hit through the onside. For the boundaries, he marginally favours the off-side (18-15), but overall 67 percent of his 483 runs were off his legs. Beyond all these qualities is a sense of fearlessness, which was not the case in the first season when he stood starstruck in the dressing room. Now, Kishan could claim himself to be a star, at least one in the making. A chhota dynamite exploding in front of us.

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