Ravi Bishnoi (Pic: AFP)
When Ravi Bishnoi was included in India's T20I squad for the away series against South Africa later this month, it, perhaps, was the clearest indication about his place in the think tank's long-term plans with the T20 World Cup 2024 in mind.
With only six T20Is remaining for India ahead of the showpiece, it can be assumed that the 23-year-old leg-spinner has moved ahead of veteran Yuzvendra Chahal in the pecking order, for now at least. Chahal is not a part of India's T20I side to face the Proteas.
Chahal is 33 and Bishnoi is 23, but the latter getting as much or more game time in T20Is is not just about a natural generational transition.
Chahal has played nine T20Is this year, grabbing as many wickets whereas Bishnoi appeared in 11 matches and picked up 18 wickets. The difference is there for everyone to see.
In the just-concluded series against Australia, Bishnoi was India's go-to bowler and he rewarded the faith reposed on him by emerging as the 'Player of the Series, taking nine wickets from five matches.
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It was not just about the wickets but the whole attitude shown by him to bowl under any condition or situation was praiseworthy.
In fact, Bishnoi had an eminently forgettable first match at Visakhapatnam, leaking 54 runs in four overs and his fielding too was in a shambles marred by a dropped catch and a few misfields.
But he fought back with gusto and his run-rate never exceeded eight thereafter.
Out of the 20 overs he bowled against the Aussies, seven were in the Power Play segment (1-6 overs). In this phase, he took five wickets at a fine economy rate of 6.45, besides bowling 20 dot balls.
Australian skipper Matthew Wade admitted that facing Bishnoi even on some of the batting-friendly tracks here was not an easy job.
"Their spinners bowled well. They got us tied down and we couldn't really break away in that middle period. So, that was probably the biggest difference in the game. Bishnoi, obviously, has been great throughout the four games. He has been quite hard to get a hold of. Some of our guys with less experience will learn a lot from facing him," said Wade.
Legendary Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan underlined this part of Bishnoi's game.
"Bishnoi is different from any other leg spinner out there. He bowls quicker and he slides the ball a lot, and it is tough to face him on helpful wickets," Muralitharan said on Jio Cinema.
However, Bishnoi will face harder challenges from within the team itself to find a place in the 11 when senior pros like Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja return to take the mantle of lead spinners. But Bishnoi has made a strong impression for himself in the run-up to the marquee event next year.
(With agency inputs)