ICC U-19 world Cup 2018: Ishan Porel shows what IPL teams missed against Pakistan

In the semifinal clash at the ICC U-19 World Cup, Ishan Porel ran through the Pakistan top order, returning with 4/17 from six overs as India set up the title clash against Australia.

The Bengal pacer was not picked by any team in the IPL auction. (Source: ICC)

Kamlesh Nagarkoti went to Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs 3.2 crore. His new-ball partner at India U-19, Shivam Mavi, followed suit and joined KKR for Rs 3 crore. From April 7 to May 27, the two upcoming fast-bowling sensations would call Eden Gardens their home. No franchise, however, raised the paddle for their fast-bowling comrade-in-arms and Bengal boy, Ishan Porel, when his name came up during the 2018 IPL auction in Bangalore on Sunday.

An inopportune injury in India’s tournament opener sidelined him from India’s group stage matches and, in all probablity, denied him a plum contract. He did come back in the quarterfinal against Bangladesh and bowled a miserly five-over spell for eight runs, but by then, perhaps, it was too late for the auction.

Porel needed a strong performance to return to prominence. And it couldn’t have been better than this – a match-winning show in the semifinal. He ran through the Pakistan top order, returning with 4/17 from six overs. His bowling made India’s victory a cakewalk.

Porel doesn’t have the pace of Nagarkoti or Mavi. He bowls in the mid-80s (miles per hour). But his 6’ 3” frame allows him to extract disconcerting bounce off the deck. At U-19 level, the extra bounce, at times, becomes a little too hard to handle. Today, Pakistan’s Imran Shah and Ali Asif learnt it the hard way.

The bleached streak in Porel’s hair is not a casual impersonation of Hardik Pandya. It is rather inspired by Brett Lee’s natural blonde locks. Porel idolises the former Aussie pacer. He also falls for Jimmy Anderson’s versatility.

His “very strict” coach, Bibhash Das, doesn’t mind the hairdo as long as Porel is bowling fast and performing. The brief for his ward has always been about bowling fast and hitting the deck hard. It has been like this since Porel turned up at the Utpal Chatterjee Cricket Academy in Kolkata as a 12-year-old.

It’s not usual for a 19-year-old Bengal fast bowler to bowl at 85-86mph consistently. The secret lies in Porel’s genetic make-up. “He was unusually tall for a 12-year-old, when I first saw him at our academy; already 5’8” and his height was genetic. It felt like he was tailor-made to bowl fast,” Das told The Indian Express.

He was never a natural mover of the cricket ball. “I never tried to change his style. I never told him to go for swing at the expense of pace. In fact, I encouraged him to bowl faster without being too clingy about line and length. Fast bowling is all about pace to start with. You can take care of line and length and discipline after a certain stage,” Das said.

As a kid, Porel’s action was halfway between side-on and front-on. Das made it totally front-on. “That’s because you can bowl faster with an open chest. It also solved his landing problem — he used to open his landing foot. We worked on his follow-through, and I must say I’m still not very satisfied with his body weight transfer in the follow-through. I focused on endurance training and speed training. He was a young boy and hard work drained him at times. But he never ran away,” the coach explained.

Chandernagore is about 41 kilometres off Kolkata, abutting the Hooghly. Porel, when he was 10 years old, was taken to the National Sporting Club there by his kabaddi-playing father Chandranath. The latter is now a national-level kabaddi umpire. Porel’s grandfather, the late Tulsi Porel, represented India in kabaddi. But this boy chose to be a breakaway. Porel wanted to play cricket and become a batsman.

Pradip Mondal, the cricket coach at the club, advised him to become a fast bowler because of his frame. “I told Ishan, ‘you have to come to my place at 5 am and we would train together’. He was a child then and didn’t like the proposal. But his father assured me of following the routine,” Mondal recounted.

After two years at the Chandernagore club, Mondal sent Porel to Kolkata. “Everyone at our club was convinced that he had enough potential to make it big. He had to go to Kolkata,” Mondal, a former left-arm spinner, recalled.

Two years ago, Porel went pandal hopping during Durga Puja. The night out led to a side strain at the nets next morning. He was on the verge of being picked for Bengal for the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy. The injury ruined his chances. “Probably for the first time in his life he was inconsolable. I had to constantly cheer him up,” Das said.

Porel made his senior Bengal debut in the Vijay Hazare Trophy last term. Then, he went to England with the India U-19 team in August last year, and although he took just two wickets in three matches, Porel’s ability impressed the team management.

He made his Ranji Trophy debut against Vidarbha this season and returned with a four-for in the first innings. He bowled quick and showed aggression. His bouncer hit Aditya Sarwate on the helmet.

“He (Porel) is very smart as a person. He is always up to date about what’s happening around him. He wants to look smart as well off the field, which is a very good thing to have in a youngster. In today’s world it’s a requirement, because your appearance says a lot about you to start with.

“As far as the cricketer Ishan is concerned, he has the hunger. He aspires to play at the big level and it shows in his approach,” Bengal Ranji captain Manoj Tiwary told this paper.

Porel’s first coach, Mondal, advised his pupil not to play the IPL for the next two years even if there’s an offer. From that perspective, Porel didn’t miss much at this year’s auction. Moreover, he has Rahul Dravid’s words to fall back on: “The auction will come every year”.

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