Ravi Bishnoi seals his T20 World Cup spot with consistent wickets
Ravi Bishnoi is unique in so many ways. For the starters, he defies the characteristics of a leg-spinner despite being classified as one. He bowls at a rapid pace, arguably the fastest among the wrist-spinners, and lands many googlies with a flatter trajectory.
But there’s the catch. Bishnoi is predictable, for he bowls plenty of googlies, but still, the batters succumb. Josh Philippe, who scores plenty of runs through sweeps, couldn’t connect it and lost his pole.
India often tried to use Yuzvendra Chahal in the powerplay, but it would backfire most of the time, for the leg-spinners usually bowl when there are more boundary riders, assisting the craft of bowling slow and full with a loopy trajectory. That doesn’t apply to Ravi Bishnoi, who has been more lethal during the field restrictions.
This year, Bishnoi has 7 wickets at 9.42 balls apiece in the first six overs. No other spinner, with a minimum of 10 overs, has a better strike rate, and his average is the third-best (11.14). Bishnoi also concedes only 7.09 runs per over despite being a leg-spinner and bowling hard overs of the powerplay when the teams try to maximise.
In the Australian series, these numbers were even better. Bishnoi took 5 wickets at an 8.40 balls-per-dismissal ratio while giving only 6.43 runs per over. No other bowler took more than two wickets in this phase. He also bowled 52.4% of dot balls, meaning more than half of his deliveries fetched no run.
It doesn’t depict that Bishnoi is only effective in the powerplay. He might have conceded too many in the first two encounters, but Bishnoi bounced back sharply from the third game. In the first couple of games, he took a solitary wicket and conceded 71 runs at 14.20 runs per over between 7 and 15 overs, but in the next three games, Bishnoi scalped 3 wickets in eight overs while giving away six runs an over.
Obviously, there is a lot of improvement required in his middle-overs bowling. The 23-year-old relies too much on keeping the lengths short and continues the same way in the middle overs. Bishnoi can go fuller with his lengths so that if the batters shift back to manoeuvre singles or doubles, they get pinned in their crease or lose their stumps. Bishnoi’s pace will certainly zip the ball through and come quicker since being landed more towards the batters.
Josh Inglis committed the same mistake in the third T20I. Bishnoi landed it just a touch fuller, and Inglis went off the back foot, but the ball was quick and crashed the stumps. That’s the right area to operate in the middle overs; neither too full nor too short, and his pace will do the rest.
It’s not just about the consistency in wickets, for it can be deceiving in T20s. There’s an argument that Australia weren’t at full strength, and the available batters weren’t great players of spin. Maybe it could’ve paved the way for wickets.
However, Bishnoi has been evolving consistently, and it’s visible from the lines he has been bowling lately. He is hitting the stumps more often, making his googlies more lethal. Travis Head’s dismissal in the fifth T20I serves as an ideal example.
Head had just hit a maximum with a slog-sweep off a length delivery outside the off-stump. The following delivery was almost identical, for it was at the same length and bowled almost at the same pace. The only difference was the line of the ball.
The delivery that conceded maximum was outside the off-pole, but Bishnoi quickly shifted his attack towards the stumps, bowling it on the off-stump. It was a googly that turned sharply, and Head was beaten by its pace.
It’s been a major upgrade in Bishnoi’s game. He has been bowling more googlies right from the start of his career, but the line of the attack has made them more lethal now. Earlier, Bishnoi would bowl outside the off stump majorly and miss his mark often because of that sharp turn after pitching.
He now takes more wickets with bowled and LBWs, as the line is much straighter. In T20Is, Bishnoi had 43.25% of such dismissals last year. But it has surged to 55.55% this year.
It is not a massive tinker, but it’s been effective. Since the West Indies series, Bishnoi has hit the stumps more than he used to do earlier. He always had control over his lengths and now knows his lines as well.
Ravi Bishnoi joins Jasprit Bumrah as the only India players to hold the No.1 spot for bowlers on the MRF Tyres ICC Men's T20I Player Rankings 😲— ICC (@ICC) December 7, 2023
Ravi Bishnoi might have become the top bowler in the ICC’s T20I rankings, but he has been bowling well since his debut. Despite being exposed to adverse conditions, Bishnoi has done his job often for India. His final T20I last year was against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, where he was the pick of the bowlers for his team.
India used five bowlers in that game, and three of them, including Yuzvendra Chahal, went for over ten runs per over. Bishnoi was the most economical bowler, conceding only 26 runs while dismissing Babar Azam. He didn’t play for almost a year in this format and was axed from the T20 World Cup in Australia.
Bishnoi’s economy rate has been above eight in only six of the 21 T20Is. Even in those six games, Bishnoi has dismissed two or more batters in three innings. He has been wicketless only twice in 21 games and had an economy rate below eight in both matches.
These numbers can be deceiving in this format if not looked at properly. But Bishnoi is an authentic wicket-taker, and it’s visible from his dismissals. 35.29% of his T20I wickets have been of the top three batters, and 82.35% of the dismissals have been of the top-six batting positions.
Ravi Bishnoi has been India's second-leading wicket-taker (18) this year in T20Is. He takes wickets at 17.61 runs apiece.🔥— CricXtasy (@CricXtasy) December 3, 2023
Should Bishnoi be part of the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup 2024? #INDvsAUS pic.twitter.com/YMnDlcQR66
It’s not that Bishnoi’s numbers are on the rise due to dismissing lower-order batters. In fact, he rarely gets to bowl to the tailenders since most of his spell ends before they arrive. Bishnoi has only delivered 17.13% of his balls among the batters batting at No.7 or below in T20Is.
Not only does Bishnoi contain runs, but he also provides regular breakthroughs to the team. Kuldeep has found his mojo again and has been India’s primary choice in the white-ball format. But Bishnoi has now sealed his place for the T20 World Cup 2024.
No matter how IPL performances are, Bishnoi shouldn’t be out of the team touring the West Indies and USA. He is even making a case to be in the XI. India will have a headache since they can only slot one wrist-spinner in the original team.
Bishnoi is more effective in the powerplay, while Kuldeep is a genuine wicket-taker in the middle overs. Both have their set of strengths and are in contrast to each other. While Bishnoi bowls quicker with a flatter trajectory, Kuldeep relies on the loopy ones to fetch wickets despite increasing his average pace.
Bishnoi has slowly turned himself into a wicket-taker, something India expect from Kuldeep Yadav. The gap is narrower than ever before. Bishnoi is quicker through the air, and if the conditions demand, he will be ideal to replace Kuldeep.
Ravi Bishnoi is also a better batter than Kuldeep Yadav. Bishnoi has the potential to be a handy lower-order batter. That is an additional service, something India crave to have at the late end of the batting order.
The Australian series was a massive success for Bishnoi. The road ahead will be strenuous as India gear up for an important three-match T20I series in South Africa. If Bishnoi succeeds in this part of the world, he might well start in the XI in the event next year.