Cricket
Ishan Porel, Bengal's pace lynchpin, celebrates the fall of a wicket during his state's Ranji Trophy campaign earlier this year. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: It took Ishan Porel, a member of the Under-19 World Cup-winning India team in 2018, two seasons for a call-up in the Indian Premier League. The tall and lithe fast bowler from Bengal, who watched his new ball partners from that team - Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti - make the cut in the world’s most prestigeous T20 franchise league before him, finally had the luck smiling at him when Kings XI Punjab picked him for a base price last December.

The indefinite postponement of IPL in March, thanks to the rise of COVID-19 pandemic in India, once again raised a question mark over the 21-year-old Bengal speedster’s debut season in the league - till the final announcement in July that the event will be shifted to the UAE soothed his nerves somewhat. The nippy Porel is now looking forward for a possible break at bowling in tandem with Mohammed Shami, a senior pro of India’s pace bowling line-up and his state teammate.

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‘‘I am looking forward to it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a fast bowler,’’ said Porel, who is scheduled to join his teammates in Delhi on August 19 before flying out for the UAE the next day.

Speaking to Gulf News during a telephonic chat from Chandannagar, a suburban town near Kolkata where he hails from, Porel said he had stepped up the preparations with strength and endurance training as per the protocol of his franchise’s physios over the last month. ‘‘I have begun increasing my workload gradually while the bowling will begin once we start the camp in Dubai. Yes, the excitement is certainly there but the intent is to make use of any opportunities that come my way,’’ said Porel, who was one of instrumental figures in taking his state to the Ranji Trophy final after a long break earlier this year.

The Kings XI team, which incidentally had their best-ever run in IPL the last time a leg of the event was held in the UAE in 2014 (they ended as runners-up), has Shami and the West Indian hulk Sheldon Cottrell as their frontline pacers, but Porel is confident of making his mark. ‘‘It’s unfortunate that the Indian cricketers were deprived of any action over nearly last five months, but then we are all starting in the same plane. I am the kind of bowler who gains form as I bowl more and that’s what I am looking to do,’’ said the youngster, who has had a few chats with Rahul Dravid - his erstwhile coach and mentor from the colt days.

Porel can never forget the way ‘Rahul Sir’ had backed him when during the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, a heel injury forced him to hobble off 4.1 overs into India’s tournament-opener and he was out of action for two weeks. Instead of sending him back home, Dravid gave Porel recovery time and kept him with the team - even though an injury reinforcement was called in.

Mohammad Shami
Mohammad Shami will be leading the pace attack for Kings XI in IPL 2020 in the UAE. Image Credit: AP

He returned for the quarter final against Bangladesh, bowled a match-winning spell of four for 17 in the semi-final against Pakistan and ended the tournament with a tight opening spell, and the wickets of both openers, in the final against Australia.

Meanwhile, in another significant development, two of Porel’s pace bowling teammates - Akash Deep and Sayan Ghosh will also be travelling to the UAE as squad bowlers for Rajasthan Royals and King’s XI Punjab, respectively.

“I am very happy. I will get a chance to bowl to some of the best in the world. Besides with Steve Smith as skipper and Andrew McDonald as coach. there will be a lot to learn,’’ Akash Deep said.

Ghosh is equally excited at the prospect of bowling to the likes of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle at the nets. “Its a great opportunity for me. And the experience I will gain will help Bengal in future. It is a welcome break from being lockdown in our houses. I can bowl and play cricket - which is a great motivation.”

Snehashis Ganguly, secretary of Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), said: “This is a welcome news. These players are very talented and has a lot of potential. This stay with the franchises for some 75 to 80 days will further help them hone their skills. I have watched the likes of Akash Deep and Ishan closely the whole of last season and they have a great future.”