This Wednesday, 21-year-old leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi hit another cricket milestone, as he received his maiden India call-up. Summoned for the upcoming T20 series versus West Indies, this is just another feather in the cap of India’s newest international-level bowling talent.

 

It’s clear from the clip above—from the Under-19 Cricket World Cup in 2020—Bishnoi demolished the competition as the tournament’s highest wicket-taker, pocketing 17 dismissals and gaining worldwide fame. Along with the honour of playing for India, he was also was announced as the third draft pick for IPL newcomers Lucknow Super Giants, who signed a Rs 4 crore contract with the player for 2022’s season, which will kick off after April this year.

These are stunning achievements for someone this young, and with such prodigal talent, comes a great story of perseverance, ambition, and a never-give-up attitude. Here’s Bishnoi’s incredible story, narrated in brief:

 

Self-Made Talent

Ravi Bishnoi as part of Team Rajasthan
Ravi Bishnoi as part of Team Rajasthan, back in 2017 | Credit: @bishnoi6476

While Bishnoi’s lethal skills are something of an expectation now, his origins are quite surprising for those who know their cricket. The son of a school headmaster, Bishnoi is the youngest of four siblings and he began honing his skills on the streets of Jodhpur, developing a local reputation as a serious bowling talent.

Rajasthan is not a very conducive environment for cricketers; its arid landscape and sweltering heat make for poor cricketing conditions. Despite this, and the fact that India hasn’t produced an International-level west-Rajasthani cricketer since the Independence era, Bishnoi and his gang of friends remained defiant, taking matters into their own hands. It’s a story that’s as inspiring as it is disappointing given the lack of government support. With no local cricket academy to train in, Bishnoi teamed up with his fellow cricketers and coaches to build their very own cricket community in the city, using their own blood, sweat, and tears.

“Our ground used to be just a patch of barren land filled with rocks. We cleared those rocks ourselves because back then we couldn’t afford a JCB truck. Then, we planted the grass on the ground ourselves, the special red mud needed for the wicket was also ordered by us, and we levelled the playing surface as well,” said Bishnoi to Kings Punjab back in 2020. “It is just the passion and dedication of building an academy ourselves that has helped me reach this stage.” Jodhpur’s ‘Spartans Cricket Academy’ was named after a sect of legendary Ancient Greek warriors, and Bishnoi’s determination suited the name well. “My academy was around 20km away from my house. So my coaches gifted me a cycle which I used for my commute twice a day,” he explained.

“I used to get up at around five in the morning, do a few fitness drills and then head to the academy and practice for a few hours and come back. Then I used to go again in the evening for another practice session.”

 

Domestic Success

Ravi Bishnoi takes a wicket for Kings Punjab, 2021
Bishnoi takes a wicket for Kings Punjab, 2021 | Credit: Kings Punjab

The story of Bishnoi’s struggles didn’t end here. Despite a consistent commitment to his training, he would face a major setback for no fault of his own, when in 2014, the BCCI banned the Rajasthan Cricket Association.

“I was around 14-15 years old when RCA got banned, so they used to play under the banner of Team Rajasthan. Back then, there weren’t any selection tournaments, there were only trials. At those trials, they used to allow me to bowl for one net session, and decide on the basis of that,” said the bowling talent.  With such limited windows of opportunity, the young bowler struggled to find his footing, first snubbed for the under-16 trials and twice for the under-19 trials. During this time, Bishnoi would even choose cricket over his 12th board exams, putting everything on the line for the game he loves.

“I felt like I was not able to do anything as a cricket player, not getting any results for all this hard work,” he said. “But it was my coaches who told me that up and downs are part and parcel of the game, and motivated me to continue playing.” Eventually, Bishnoi’s dreams came true. After working as a net bowler for Kings Punjab, he became part of the playing eleven against Kerala in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy. Here, he stunned audiences by becoming Rajasthan’s 2nd-highest wicket-taker in just two matches. This impressive performance caught the eye of key figures in the BCCI, earning Bishnoi a spot in the 2020 Under-19 Cricket World Cup.

Finally, given a real chance to shine, Bishnoi went all out. A particular highlight was his match against Japan, on  January 21st, 2020. The spinner took four wickets without conceding a run, and took another four wickets for five runs from eight overs, giving India a 10-wicket win. This, and another performance against New Zealand, would land Bishnoi with two Man of the Match accolades, and he ended the tournament as its leading wicket-taker.

 

Looking Forward

Ravi Bishnoi as part of the Under-19 Indian Team
Ravi Bishnoi as part of the Under-19 Indian Team | Credit: @ICC

After India’s resounding loss against South Africa this January, hopes are riding high on the young sportsman’s and his skills will be put to the test next month. The series will kick off with three ODIs starting in Ahmedabad from February 6th, followed by three more T20 Internationals in Kolkata. The talented sportsman has not been too public with his recent success, although he did retweet Virender Sehwag’s words of appreciation from last September’s IPL performances:

 

Bishnoi also was spotted by none other than one of India’s greatest-ever spinners, Anil Kumble. The legend imparted some sage advice to the youngster, which he shared in an interview with Sportstar.

“I have learned a lot from Anil sir, and those lessons have helped me in becoming a better cricketer. He would always guide me on how to back myself and never lose hope under pressure. Those things were of immense help. He always told me to play to my strengths. The advice was that I should stick to my basics and just execute the plans. There was no experiment. He gave me the confidence to play freely.”

With his trademark googlies and skilful leg-breaks, Bishnoi’s tenacity and talent will be a major highlight for the series and, hopefully, India’s cricket fortunes will take a turn for the better next month.

(Featured Image Credits: @ICC)