When the Indian team had descended in the national capital for a T20I against South Africa in June, Uttam Majumdar’s phone rang and he was requested to visit Hotel ITC Maurya.
At the other end of the call was his favourite ward, “apna baccha” (own kid), Ishan Kishan, asking him to come to the team hotel.
“Ishan wanted me to come to hotel everyday, when he was not training, and work on his head position and body balance while facing the short ball from Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada,” Majumdar, who runs his own academy in Greater Noida, told PTI while savouring his ward’s fastest ODI double hundred against Bangladesh.
“The hotel room became an extended net area. At least for four to five days before that game, he would play the shadow pull. It was more about conditioning his mind and he scored 76 opening the batting,” said Majumdar as he kept one eye on the TV set at his academy and other on the net session of the future Ishan Kishans.
The short ball practice story is significant because in the match before that particular T20I in June, Ishan was hit on the head by a bouncer from Sri Lankan pacer Lahiru Kumara and suffered concussions.
There were questions with regards to his technique against fast bowlers, but all doubts were dispelled by his pull shots against Bangladesh quick Ebadot Hossain, who was bowling in the mid 140s in Chattogram on Saturday.
“You know my birthday is on December 7 and this knock, it feels like my own kid has presented me with a birthday gift.
“Ishan is 24 now and when his father Mr Pranav Pandey brought him to me at the erstwhile Bihar Cricket Academy in Patna, he was just six and extremely naughty. It has been an 18-year association and full of nostalgia,” Majumdar added.
“A lot of people don’t know that before Bihar Ranji team got disbanded, I was a part of the probables and my roommate during those Ranji camps used to be Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was still playing for Bihar. I took up coaching when I was still playing active cricket,” said the coach.
When Ishan first came with his father, his elder brother Raj Kishan was also training under Majumdar.
“His elder brother Raj Kishan was a very talented cricketer. But then the parents needed to take a call that one boy would pursue sport and the other education. So Raj being the elder sacrificed and pursued a medical degree.
“The first day Ishan came for training, he was so tiny, that I fed him with under-arm balls and that kid played perfect cover drives. The moment I saw a few cover drives from a six-year-old, I told Pranav ji, your son is special and he has to be unlucky if he doesn’t play for India,” Majumdar’s voice was choked with emotion.
In later years, Majumdar, along with his family, had shifted to Delhi NCR but a young Ishan would always visit him to train under his first coach.
“Now when he has time off from national duty, he needs to report to National Cricket Academy. But earlier, when he had a bit more time, whenever he would be in NCR, he would stay at my house, train and he is a member of my family,” the proud coach said.
What has made the coach ecstatic is the sheer execution of those 10 sixes -- a few pulls, some drives, and the kind of distance each maximum covered.
“You saw those 10 sixes today and what you must have realised is the kind of power he generates despite such a small frame. It hasn’t happened overnight. There would be months of training when he would bat two sessions and play at least 500 to 600 balls at the nets per day. Out of them, at least 200 balls were about dedicated power-hitting.
“I would make him continuously play big shots and he would never stop till he got it right. He is only 24 but he has seen a fair bit of ups and downs. He is mentally very strong.
“I always tell him that past is history. For me, past has never mattered and that’s what I always tell Ishan,” Majumdar said.
Ishan is one player that Dhoni is really fond of and the former India captain has always been a sounding board for the youngster.
“Even before Ishan made his India debut, I know MS would tell him that if a talent like him doesn’t play for the country for a long time, he will be doing injustice not to anyone else but himself,” Majumdar concluded.
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