After 2 Years With Mumbai Indians, Ishan Kishan Earns His Stripes

Ishan Kishan’s journey at Mumbai Indians from 2018 to his 99 against RCB.

5 min read
Ishan Kishan scored 99 vs RCB to help Mumbai Indians take the IPL 2020 match to a Super Over.

The 2018 Indian Premier League auction was a big one for Ishan Kishan. Such were the stakes for his family that his father was admitted to the hospital on the day of the auction due to high blood pressure.

Mumbai Indians had Kishan in their sights as the only other keeper in their team was Aditya Tare. With Royal Challengers Bangalore, too, bidding fiercely for Kishan, the then 19-year old keeper eventually grabbed a Rs 6.2 crore deal. An ecstatic senior Kishan apparently turned the BP machine off and said he was ready to go home to the doctor.

Being the fringe player in a winning franchise is far from easy and Kishan soon found that out in the IPL 2018 season. While he was scoring runs, it was interspersed by poor streaks of scores and the pressure mounted on Kishan.

In the Netflix documentary by Mumbai Indians, there's nearly an entire episode dedicated to Kishan's mood swings and patchy form. Stuck in the midst of a rut, the documentary shows how Kishan declines an interview because he's "fed up" and "don't want to talk about cricket".

Mahela Jayawardene, the Mumbai Indians coach, sums up Kishan's mindset perfectly.

“For Ishan, his emotions are way too high when he’s doing well...and then he has one bad game, he goes really low (sic). He didn’t get to bat in a couple of games, probably had a bit of a dent in his confidence. But a lot of guys go through that kind of up and down, so we just have to encourage him to be out there and do what he does best.”
Mahela Jaywardene, Mumbai Indians’ Coach

Kishan came out all guns blazing against Kolkata Knight Riders later in the season to put behind a streak of three ducks in four innings. His 21-ball 62, including four sixes off four balls off Kuldeep, pushed Mumbai Indians into the top four in a must-win clash for them.

He ended the season in rather meek fashion, though, continuing his cycle of mind-blowing knocks separated by a series of poor performances.

The general notion around Kishan by the end of the season was along the lines of what Jayawardene had said earlier. He is either, too, ecstatic or too low, something Kishan himself admits after the season.

"In cricket, you have to be mentally very strong and if you feel under pressure you can sometimes change your game also. That's not good for the team, or for the player. That's what happened to me, I think. I'm a guy who gets happy when I score runs, and when I don't, I am upset," Kishan had said an in interview to ESPNcricinfo.

"But they [MI management] emphasised on being neutral. Because if you are happy in any game, and then you are upset when you don't score, in the next game also you will go with the same state of mind. That does not allow you to play your game. That's the thing they spoke to me about, to stay normal whether I perform or not, and keep practising well."

Ishan Kishan has been with Mumbai Indians since he was bought in the 2018 IPL auction.
Ishan Kishan has been with Mumbai Indians since he was bought in the 2018 IPL auction.
(Photo: BCCI/IPL)

Kishan didn't play a lot during the 2019 season and in 2020, Saurabh Tiwary was chosen to start ahead of him. The reality of being a fringe player in a successful franchise hits players hard, and on Monday, Kishan had a chance at redemption.

Walking in with the team at 16/2 in a run-chase of 202, Kishan flat bats the first ball he faces with utter disdain to the point boundary. Two overs later, he is swivelling across to pull Navdeep Saini for a six. He would go to smash the tall seamer for three more maximums in the game, but none are as vital as his two back-to-back sixes off Isuru Udana in the final over, helping Mumbai get back from a near impossible situation.

From 19 off 6, Kishan gets it down to 5 off 2. But then he drags a slower one to the deep fielder when on 99 to leave Mumbai needing five to win off the last ball. You can see Kishan is distraught at his dismissal. He bangs his helmet on the way back and is fretting at the shot he played to get out. You can see he feels he let the team down.

By the time Pollard gets a boundary and Mumbai Indians tie the game, Kishan is nearly in tears. The cameras pan in on him as the Super Over looms. He's still padded up, but isn't one of the three designated batsmen for Mumbai Indians in the six-over shoot-out.

Rohit Sharma, in the post-match presentation said that Kishan was "drained out" and wasn't comfortable coming out to bat in the Super Over. He goes on to state that they thought they could send Kishan in, but that he wasn't feeling fresh. Rohit concludes by stating that "Hardik is someone we trust."

After 2 Years With Mumbai Indians, Ishan Kishan  Earns His Stripes

Kishan literally dragged Mumbai into the game alongside Kieron Pollard and when the franchise actually wanted him to see them through the Super Over, Kishan was too distraught to grab the chance. Sure, he is emotional, the humidity has taken a toll on his physical stamina and he possibly felt Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Rohit Sharma are a way better striking trio.

Sure, Kishan was selfless on the one side. But there's a feeling that the self belief Mumbai Indians proudly inject into their young players was somehow missing in Kishan. Yes, the insane heat meant he was exhausted - as was AB de Villiers after keeping through the innings - and too drained as Rohit himself said.

Yet, there's a lingering feeling that the mental exhaustion took to Kishan more than the actual possible physical strain. Did he miss a chance to jump from a fringe player into the trusted list of a top-flight franchise?

Despite the obvious strengths in his game and the extraordinary few knocks he has had, Mumbai Indians - ever willing to back a young player - have been a tad reluctant in backing Kishan and in giving him more responsibility. This was his chance to complete the job - turn that 99 into a hundred, or walk to his coach and ask to bat in the Super Over.

It isn't to say Kishan should have come out ahead of Pollard, Hardik or Rohit. It isn't to say he should have fought mental and physical exhaustion to stay out there for six more balls. He perhaps was actually too drained to do that and might have felt he would he pegging back the team.

But, it was an opportunity to put his hand up and show he's ready. It was a chance to earn the trust of the franchise, his coach and captain. Kishan cannot be blamed even if he did decline the offer to walk out in the Super Over, but right about now would be the ideal time for the management to help him identify what his supreme talent needs to be complemented with - the mental strength

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