IPL 2012 May 28, 2012

A wanderer gets his big break

Manvinder Bisla has changed several teams - in Ranji Trophy and IPL - in search of a big opportunity. Fate presented it to him on the night of the IPL final

Until May 27, Manvinder Bisla was best known for being a Tillakaratne Dilshan lookalike. He was also known as a man for whom a trap was allegedly set by undercover reporters from a news channel. Bisla was one injudicious shot from being suspended by the BCCI, like five other cricketers. Like the others, he was not a big name, and the BCCI wouldn't have thought twice had Bisla been caught showing more than a passing interest in what the reporters were offering. Thankfully he left that sucker ball outside off, and on Sunday he reaped the maximum benefits of his judgement.

Bisla was born in Hisar in Haryana, a town known for badminton player Saina Nehwal and the highway dhabas ideally suited for those driving to and from Delhi, in north-western India. He played for India Under-19, but didn't waste much time in leaving Haryana to play Ranji Trophy for Himachal Pradesh. After impressing everyone there, Bisla got a better offer from Jammu & Kashmir, and made the move again. Only to return a season later.

This kind of impatience is not appreciated in Indian cricket. Only those cricketers who missed the bus on India selection play for other states as professionals. Loyalty to your association is valued. Those associations are supposed to fight for your selection in return. Bisla, though, was ambitious, and perhaps more of a modern-day cricketer who didn't have time for these niceties. Those reporters had nearly got it right.

Himachal, though, saw the other side of Bisla too. For starters, the coach there, Rajdeep Kalsi, thought he might have a future India player at hand. Those were the days before MS Dhoni had said hello to Pakistan, and neither Ajay Ratra nor Parthiv Patel had done enough to make the India wicketkeeping slot his own. Bisla scored three centuries in 2004-05, and got those who mattered talking about him. John Wright, then the India coach, made a trip to watch him play for North Zone. Bisla was close to representing India through a route less taken.

In three matches, though, Bisla managed just 39 runs, and Dhoni blasted a fifty against Bangladesh Cricket Board XI. There hasn't been a chance since. The nearly man continued to have run-ins with fate. Himachal named him captain in 2006, but he tore a ligament in his knee. It was an identical injury to Yuvraj Singh's, and the two went to the same doctor in Delhi. Bisla's ambition, though, didn't know bounds. He couldn't reach a contractual agreement with Himachal and went without any first-class cricket this last season. Had he been able to do this without IPL is anybody's guess.

The absence of blind faith in one team didn't stop him from being a team man, though. Kalsi, his coach at Himachal, swears by Bisla's spirit. "As a cricketer he is very competitive," Kalsi says. "That stood out when he played for us. Big heart.

"More than that, as a human being, as a person, he brought great value to the dressing room. He wouldn't think about just himself. Never sulked in a corner when he failed to make big runs. Thought about the whole team. Encouraged youngsters. Was wicketkeeper, would think nothing of running all the way up to the bowler, kept the team together through tough sessions."

Yet that early promise didn't transform into much. The season with three hundreds was never replicated. An average of 29 for this medium-pacer-turned-wicketkeeper-batsman wasn't breaking down doors. Dhoni, too, had destroyed all other wicketkeepers' aspirations. Then, along came IPL, where in theory, one night could take you out of obscurity, unlike in Ranji Trophy.

That night kept eluding Bisla, though. Even in the IPL, he couldn't settle down with one team. Kolkata Knight Riders were his third side in four years. On that sting operation tape he wasn't seen guaranteeing he wouldn't get a fourth in its sixth year. The undercover reporters were seen offering him a place in Mumbai Indians, but he was seen saying he wasn't interested because he wanted opportunities, something he wasn't getting with Knight Riders even.

A certain restlessness has been the consistent feature of Bisla's career. He needed to settle down somewhere. He needed a May 27. May 27 wasn't even supposed to happen. Then L Balaji injured himself. For the balance of the team, Knight Riders had to sit Brendon McCullum out, and play Bisla. For weeks he had not got an opportunity, and now this was the biggest opportunity he could get.

May 27 was that night, Bisla's night. He backed himself, and pulled out an uninhibited innings of mostly clean hitting. The commentators began to now see a bit of Jacques Kallis in his shots. The team owner, a multi-millionaire and the most popular Bollywood actor of his time, couldn't stop praising and thanking him. After about eight years of wandering and restlessness, Bisla might have finally found home on May 27. They won't be approaching him for stings any time soon.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Naresh on May 30, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    An eye-catching innings from Bisla. That wicketkeeper slot is now his for the taking. The real test will come overseas. At least we may have found a replacement for Dhoni when we defend our next ODI world cup. Wicket keeping has taken its toil on Dhoni.

  • Naresh on May 30, 2012, 8:58 GMT

    @Nishanth is right. Real character can be tested only in overseas conditions. High bounce at pace is the undoing of Indian batsman. We need tall batsman of Dravid and Laxman mould. Rohit Sharma fits the bill ,but is a careless batsman. He should learn to put value on his wicket.

  • Dummy4 on May 30, 2012, 6:13 GMT

    I wonder how these guys can talk about Bisla when proven wicket keeper batsman Wriddiman Saha is waiting in wings. He has shown that he best than Dhoni in foreign conditions and a good wicket keeper. No matter, Bisla has to prove that he is not a flash in pan. It's time for Dhoni to bid farewell from Test Cricket and give a chance to Wriddiman Saha. How can u guys forget about Saha's debut against daring Dale Steyn & Co. in Nagpur and his last test match in Australia, let him play a fair chances, before thinking about any other wicket keeper like Ojha & Bisla. Parthiv & Karthik are gone from the scene.

  • Dummy4 on May 30, 2012, 5:05 GMT

    india team 1) manvinder bisla 2)Yousuf pathan 3) sachin 4)Dhoni 5)suresh raina 6)ravindra jadeja 7)jaheer khan 8)umeshy yadav 9)gautham gambir 10)vinay kumar 11)murali vijay

  • Dummy4 on May 29, 2012, 20:03 GMT

    Talking up the potential of Bisla is good, however, instead of the national team straight away, i believe he should be in A team tours. How many ppl other than me still think that Dhoni should stop playing test cricket, he is already aging!! its better for indian cricket to give the guy with the most potential/experience after dhoni a chance - that happens to be Naman ojha/Dinesh karthik respectively.

  • Dummy4 on May 29, 2012, 17:05 GMT

    Thanks for this wonderful piece, I think this is what dreams are made of, by all means he should be out there in the A XI, but that is another smelling kettle of fish held by the Selectors and Dhoni i presume... This guys has what it takes like the many who surfaced in the IPL... Its about time many in the Indian XI do the long walk, there is so much talent that can take the place.

  • Tawhidul on May 29, 2012, 16:38 GMT

    As a Bangladeshi, first i want to congratulate Bisla for his great innings. What a knock in chasing a huge total in the final match in nerve biting condition. Also congrats to Kallis, Tiwary & Shakib. I think the way Bisla played was more likely to VVS Laxman (only my opinion). If he keeps his temperment, he will be the real asset for India national team. BCCI should include him in the squard. I find another promising indian player(Bowler). He is Umesh Yadav (Delhi Daredevils). He has the real pace but need care to grow up as champion bowler by improving his line & length.

  • Dummy4 on May 29, 2012, 15:41 GMT

    20la20la. Sidharth really loved the way you felt and got in the making of Manvinder Singh 20la. Greater stories are those which go unnoticed because of missed chances and missed company of that perpetual thing called fate. The world as we see goes by those who have become what they could have become and not by those who could not become what they could have. What we always see is a winner and mostly fail to acknowledge the spirit and effort put in by a loser. Survival of the fittest I guess. I loved Manvinder Singh 20la's game and humility after the bug 27th night. Will pray for him getting a chance to don the Indian jersey asap. And, as I have always felt, no matter however cynics demean IPL for all the things, one thing is a clear winner- many youngsters can pursue cricket as a profession even without playing for India. WoW!!!

  • Khairul on May 29, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    Thanks Bisla to enjoyed IPL final.

  • Dummy4 on May 29, 2012, 9:55 GMT

    Mithun and Vinay - not good enough...wonder what Saurab Tiwary and Jadega have to get so much. Manoj Tiwary has been given just 1 innings and he has done well in those. Balaji - he looks good but why ishe overlooked? Murali Karthik - can't he play tests? Rahul Sharma seems to be fading away. Ojha and Aswin are not penetrative enough. Can't believe Unadkdat was selected for India once. Venu Rao like Uthapaa and Irfan have been dealt badly. Even Ganguly after a good SA away series where he was the only one to score well was dropped! There are so many such stories. Kanitkar and Praveen Amre too were discarded after they did well.

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