Asia Cup 2022: Unorthodox Ravi Bishnoi Impresses With His Attacking Mindset

Rarely do teams play two right-arm legspinners. Having them is a luxury. The Indian team had the privilege of playing them against Pakistan in a crucial Super Four match of the Asia Cup 2022 in Dubai on Sunday.

However, the move did not prove beneficial as the combined duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravi Bishnoi went for 69 runs in their combined four overs and picked up a wicket each, the former going at 10.75 an over and the latter at an impressive 6.50.

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Following the right knee injury to allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, India had the option of playing either Bishnoi, offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin or left-arm spinning allrounder Axar Patel, who was flown in as Jadeja’s replacement, as the second spinner after Chahal.

While it was unlikely that Patel would be chosen much ahead of Ashwin or Bishnoi, though there is no golden rule that the Gujarat left-arm spinner cannot be played straightaway overlooking the other spinners already in the squad. The choice was largely between Ashwin and Bishnoi. And since India already have their first-choice leg-spinner Chahal in their 11, Ashwin was expected to play to provide the off-spin variety.

Since India gave Deepak Hooda, who can also bowl off-spin while also strengthening the batting, a game on Sunday, they may have decided to go with the wicket-taking bowler Bishnoi.

Pakistan expected Patel to play in place of Jadeja as he is a spinning allrounder, revealed Mohammad Nawaz, man of the match in Pakistan’s five-wicket win over India on Sunday. “But nothing of that sort happened. India played two leg-spinners and we were prepared for it,” said Nawaz, whose 20-ball 42 helped Pakistan overhaul India’s challenging 181/7 in an exciting last over finish for the second successive Sunday between the two countries.

Bishnoi, the 22-year-old legspinner from Rajasthan, has caught the eye with his variations and googly in the IPL and has not disappointed at all in the 10 T20Is he has played so far since his debut against the West Indies in Kolkata earlier this year, picking up 16 wickets at 7.08.

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Bishnoi marked his arrival in international cricket with a man of the match performance, picking up two for 17 from his quota of four overs, surpassing his senior leg-spinning team-mate Chahal, whose figures in the same match were one for 34 in four overs.

Chahal and Bishnoi have so far played in three T20Is together and Bishnoi has better figures in comparison in two of those matches including the one against Pakistan on Sunday.

While Chahal has also bowled in the Powerplay and picked up wickets, of late he has been coming in to bowl after the fielding restrictions are removed. Bishnoi was given to bowl inside the Powerplay when Pakistan looked to make a promising start through their powerful combination of Mohammad Rizwan and captain Babar Azam on Sunday.

Coming in to bowl the fourth over, Bishnoi dismissed the dangerous Azam, who chipped the legspinner to mid-wicket for Rohit to take a simple catch.

Bishnoi may have had his heart in his mouth when the umpires halted Azam’s walk back to the pavilion to check for front-foot No Ball, and the third umpire, Ruchira Palliyaguruge took time looking at various angles to check if the legspinner had over stepped. Thankfully, Bishnoi had landed well within the popping crease.

Bishnoi’s first over yielded only three runs and he took the prized wicket of Azam. His other three overs also did not go for much, except when in-form Rizwan slog swept him for a six over mid-wicket.

Bishnoi also bowled the 18th over and nearly got Asif Ali caught behind, though the faint edge was not conclusive enough on Ultra Edge to be given out. Immediately after, Arshdeep Singh dropped a sitter off Ali at short third man.

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Bishnoi creates wicket-taking chances whereas Chahal, who is India’s highest wicket-taker in T20Is with 80 scalps in 65 T20Is, is an orthodox legspinner, bowling slower through the air and making the batsmen commit mistakes.

Ravi Bishnoi took the all-important wicket of Babar Azam in the Powerplay. (AP Photo)

Former India legspinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan analysed the two leg-spinners while talking exclusively to news18.com from Chennai: “Bishnoi bowls perpendicular. Technically, you don’t see a lot of legspinners bowling like that. He is a new kid who has not been analysed by the opposition much. Everybody plays for the turn and the ball comes in, his stock delivery being the googly. For a new batter to play Bishnoi for the first time, the tendency of the batsmen is to play for the turn, which is clearly not there. His stock ball is angling in. You are playing on the wrong line. He has got a much faster arm action than Chahal.

“Chahal bowls mostly the middle and leg line. Bishnoi bowls around off-stump and outside the off-stump with the ball coming in. When you bowl a leg stump line, you bowl that line where the ball is turning. For a genuine leg-spinner, you want the ball on the off-side with five fielders there. When you bowl middle and leg, the batsmen is in line with the ball and takes singles and twos comfortably. The general field on the on-side for a leg-spinner is short fine-leg, deep square-leg, deep mid-wicket and long-on. There is nobody in the short mid-wicket area to stop the singles and twos.

“Once you concede singles, the tendency for bowlers to get worked up is more and batsmen rotating strike. The loose balls will automatically come that will be destroyed. Also, they go for sixes because batsmen don’t need to get into line, the bowlers bowl into the line of the batsmen. All they have to do is pick up the length and hit through the line. The line is very predictable,” he added.

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On Sunday, Chahal was punished by left-handers Fakhar Zaman first, who drove him through covers for a four before hitting straight to the deep. Mohammad Nawaz cut him once, swept him twice while right-handed Rizwan did not let go the full tosses unpunished.

Sivaramakrishnan added: “The most difficult shot for a left-hander to play against a legspinner is the cover drive. You should be bowling outside the off-stump and turn it in. Unfortunately, today’s bowlers depend on the batsmen giving their wickets rather than the bowlers taking wickets.

“Bishnoi is in the category where he is very unorthodox, hardly bowls a leg-spin and bowls outside the off-stump and brings the ball in, whereas Chahal bowls the leg-stump line that is easy for the batsmen to hit because the line is predictable. When a spinner gets hit, the tendency is to bowl quicker and quicker, and the ball comes on to the bat even better.

“The most important aspect for a legspinner is to bowl a big leg-break in the first two overs. There is hesitancy in the minds of the batsmen, what to play for, where to play, whether the ball is coming in. He is unlikely to step out because if he doesn’t get to the pitch of the ball, the ball will turn and he will get stumped. Turning balls will give you more wickets as the line you pick in the air changes after turning.”

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