Ishant Sharma is earning both plaudits and criticism.
If the bouquets are for his stirring performances with the ball, the brickbats are for the blatant aggression on the field that has not just seen him fined 65% of his match fee but also found him in violation the ICC’s Code of Conduct.
The new-found aggression and maturity (as a fast bowler) has not gone unnoticed.
Dilip “Colonel” Vengsarkar considers the lanky pacer his find.
“He has been bowling at good speeds, hitting the good length often and getting bounce because of his height and action.”
Amit Mishra had this to say about Ishant’s efforts with the ball in the first innings of the second Test.
“The way Ishant bowled with the new ball was important on a slow track. His effort in the heat, that spell set the game up for us.”
TA Sekhar, India fast bowling coach, said:
“Basically, he is bowling a good line and length. There is an increase in speed from what he used to bowl earlier. After starting (his career) by bowling 145 kmph, he reduced in pace. But now he has gained speed and touching 140. He is expect to give breakthroughs in the first spell with the new ball. Ishant has played a lot of Test matches but doesn’t have a great record. He lacks variation like what Zaheer Khan had and this is something that he has to start working on.”
Another former fast bowler, Chetan Sharma, believes that Ishant is a much improved player now.
“Ishant is bowling well. I was in Sri Lanka and I spoke to him for half-an-hour. He sounded a very mature fast bowler. There used to be shy bowlers who used to sneak past their seniors in order to avoid a talk with them, but not Ishant, who comes and speaks to you. And that tells you about his confidence. He understands what he is doing. And, he has the backing of a lot of talented youngsters like Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and (Mohammed) Shami. I don’t think there is a problem in the pace department. If a pacer can pick up 2-3 wickets on the sub-continent tracks, then I believe he has done his job.”
Fellow Delhiite, Ashish Nehra, was slightly back-handed with his compliments.
“I am a big fan of Umesh Yadav — talentwise even though he has not fulfilled his true potential as to what he should have achieved by now. He is somewhat similar to me but my case was more to do with injuries. Varun (Aaron) and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) are also talented.
But Ishant Sharma, who has played 60 Test matches (62) is the least talented among them but one of the most hardworking guys around.
If Ishant has played so much and for so long, it is a testimony that talent alone can’t be the recipe for success. Talent can only take you till certain point but is nothing without hard work.”
If Nehra is right in that Ishant is the least talented among the current crop of pace men, then Indian cricket is blessed indeed.
Nehra spoke at length about Sharma.
Asked about his higher-than-normal strike rate, Nehra said:
“Look, there is a perception about Ishant. I agree his strike-rate is on the higher side but in last one year, he has taken five-fors in New Zealand and England. So he is improving. Don’t forget, he is only 27 and has already played 62 Tests because he started at 18. We should not put undue pressure on him and start saying ‘drop Ishant Sharma and get someone new’. What will happen if he is dropped? Nothing will happen. BCCI should just ensure that a fast bowler is given enough time and confidence to settle down. Dropping a bowler after one bad series can’t be a solution. A new fast bowler would take at least two series to just settle down.”
The Delhi bowler believes that fast bowlers do better when they enjoy the confidence of their skippers.
“Look the bottom line is, if you are bowling well, then you need nobody for help. But there will be times when even if you keep a deep point, the batsman will still hammer you. Then you have no option but to listen to your captain and bowl as per the field set by him. Michael Clarke was a great captain till last Ashes and today Alastair Cook has suddenly become a great captain. If you look at history of fast bowler-captain relationships — for example Sunil Gavaskar-Kapil Dev or Mohammed Azharuddin-Javagal Srinath, that has always been the case. When the going is good, nothing matters. Everything comes out when the performance level dips.”
Sharma seems to have no such problems on this score with his current leader, Virat Kohli.
Scribes might have expected some censure from India’s fire-brand captain given that Sharma will now miss the first home Test against South Africa for his aggressive send-offs in the third Test and the war of words with opposition players.
Kohli, however, was unperturbed.
“I was very happy with the incident (argument with Prasad) when he was batting. It happened at the right time for us because we had to bowl on Monday and they made him angry. It could not have happened at a better time for us And the way he (Ishant) bowled in the second innings, he didn’t concede a boundary for 19 overs. That’s the kind of pressure he created on those batsmen because of one incident. He bowled his heart out like he has always done when the Indian team has needed to defend scores in Test matches.An angry fast bowler is a captain’s delight. I was really happy to see what happened yesterday and it switched some things on in the right ways. It had to be controlled but in the end it benefitted us.”
The spring in the step is back and very much evident. After two hard-fought series in England and Australia where the Indians came off second-best, they appeared a much more hardy bunch in Sri Lanka. The score-line could very well have read 3-0 instead of 2-1 if the Indians had plugged away as they did in the last two Tests. It is a team sport and moments of personal brilliance and stellar performances can at most win you a Test or two. It takes consistent togetherness and toughness to pull through a gruelling series.
South Africa at home will be the real Test. Can Team India do an encore?
There’s always something to be said about back stories—the people, the spouses, the families behind a sportsperson’s successes.
Two stalwarts of the game—Kumara Sangakkara and Michael Clarke—retire from the game having announced their exit some time before.
Much has been written about them; tributes have been paid—ad nauseam.
But what about the women in their lives?
Yehali Sangakkara is the talk of the town ever since stunning pictures with her hubby hit the sports pages.
The dynamic and sultry beauty expressed her sentiments about her counterpart returning home.
Speaking to Sony Six, Yehali said:
“He is an extremely messy person, the messiest on earth. But he loves to cook and absolutely loves making pasta at home.We never discussed cricket at home and always made sure there was life away from the sport at home. Conversations revolved around kids and made sure there was life beyond the sport.Kumar is a very relaxed, open sort of person. He has never demanded much. (But) He will have to get used to our routine now. He will of course still play some cricket for a year or two.”
Yehali and Kumara have known each other since their school days. They dated for eight years before settling down.
The wicketkeeper-batsman says:
“In my case, it (marriage) keeps me grounded and gives me a base where I can think my life out, refocus and renew energies for the next day.”
The 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture is Yehali’s favoured Sanga moment when it comes to cricket.
Here’s a sample of her spouse’s famed words:
“Ladies and Gentleman, the history of my country extends over 2500 years.
A beautiful island situated in an advantageously strategic position in the Indian Ocean has long attracted the attentions of the world at times to both our disadvantage and at times to our advantage.
Sri Lanka is land rich in natural beauty and resources augmented by a wonderfully resilient and vibrant and hospitable people whose attitude to life has been shaped by volatile politics both internal and from without.
In our history you will find periods of glorious peace and prosperity and times of great strife, war and violence. Sri Lankans have been hardened by experience and have shown themselves to be a resilient and proud society celebrating at all times our zest for life and living.
Sri Lankans are a close knit community. The strength of the family unit reflects the spirit of our communities. We are an inquisitive and fun-loving people, smiling defiantly in the face of hardship and raucously celebrating times of prosperity.
Living not for tomorrow, but for today and savouring every breath of our daily existence. We are fiercely proud of our heritage and culture; the ordinary Sri Lankan standing tall and secure in that knowledge.
Over four hundred years of colonization by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British has failed to crush or temper our indomitable spirit. And yet in this context the influence upon our recent history and society by the introduced sport of cricket is surprising and noteworthy.
Sri Lankans for centuries have fiercely resisted the Westernisation of our society, at times summarily dismissing western tradition and influence as evil and detrimental.
Yet cricket, somehow, managed to slip through the crack in our anti-Western defences and has now become the most precious heirloom of our British Colonial inheritance.
Maybe it is a result of our simple sense of hospitality where a guest is treated to all that we have and at times even to what we don’t have.
If you a visit a rural Sri Lankan home and you are served a cup of tea you will find it to be intolerably sweet. I have at times experienced this and upon further inquiry have found that it is because the hosts believe that the guest is entitled to more of everything including the sugar. In homes where sugar is an ill-affordable luxury a guest will still have sugary tea while the hosts go without.”
Speaking to Wisden India, Sangakkara elaborated on his partnership with Yehali:
“I met her in Kandy, we were in two schools that had the same founder. Rev Ireland Jones founded Trinity and then Hillwood College in Kandy. I met her there when I was about 16-17 and have been with her for well over 20 years now. And it’s been the best partnership of my life, without a doubt. We have two beautiful children and she’s a very practical, very sensible lady who minces no words in telling me exactly what she thinks of my cricket or what I do or the decisions that I make. Not in any technical sense but in a sense of whether what the thought processes are that go into making these decisions. She has been one of the most important figures in keeping me grounded and ensuring that there is sanity at home. There is order when I am playing. When I am away from home, I have always travelled with them, with my wife and my children. I have been very, very blessed to have her in my life and hopefully, she will decide to stay with me for many years longer.”
Sangakkara’s wife was expecting when the Sri Lankans were attacked in Pakistan. Recalling that gruesome event, the former skipper said:
“Yes, actually my wife was a few months pregnant, quite pregnant by the time we were attacked. So actually I called her and I spoke to her and I said listen, we were driving to the ground and there has been a bit of a shooting but everyone’s fine. Don’t worry about anything. That’s all I told her, I didn’t tell her anything about who got hurt, who got hit and all of this. But unfortunately, there were news items being run saying I got hit in the head and people have died and all these things and she was panicking. I got a few calls and at the end of the day I said listen, I am talking to you, so that means I am fine! But at the same time, I can understand the stress that she was going through. It was easier for us because we knew exactly what was happening but they weren’t getting the news quickly enough or clearly enough. And it was hugely stressful not just on her but all the families and you could see when we landed that the relief they had to have us back and at home in Sri Lanka. It was quite a tough time.”
If Kumara is the man-about-town, his other half is no less enterprising.
Yehali took over a television microphone when she ‘interviewed’ an Aussie spectator at his final Test in Colombo.
The Australian was all paeans.
“I love Kumar. He is one of the all-time greats of cricket. I am an Australian but am a huge supporter of Sri Lankan cricket.It’s a sad day to see Kumar retire but we will always remember his great innings.”
“I think he went through the normal process – from school to NCC to ‘A’ team and then to the national team. The process worked and he became mature.We are blessed to have a very supportive family. Kumar’s parents and siblings are very supportive. We have good friends around us who keep us grounded. He always believes in doing the right thing. He says, ‘If you do the right thing, good will follow’. He has always taken responsibility on himself rather than pointing fingers at others.”
To be continued…
Team India lost the first Test to Sri Lanka at Galle from a seemingly invulnerable position.
A batting collapse followed an inept display of bowling intent which let the Islanders back into the match.
Once a foothold was established, the home side drove home their advantage in the face of tentativeness from the visitors.
Does this signal the end of the ‘five-bowlers’ theory?
Virat Kohli says no and he is right.
“If I have said I am going to play with five bowlers, I cannot go down after a performance like this and say I wish I had an extra player, you cannot play with 12 players. If I have chosen to play with five bowlers to take 20 wickets then it is our responsibility to bat in a better way which we did not do today. So I am not bringing up any excuses or wishing that we had an extra batsman. We should have done this better with six batsmen.”
The Indian skipper has a point. The team is going to lose some when they try to win games.
The mind-set and execution should be to play positive cricket and go out there expecting to have a result.
Playing for a draw never brings about a gain for the side unless your opposite number is suicidal.
Kohli should continue with his game-plan and should expect more from both his batsmen and his bowlers.
The bowlers have to bowl on average 18 overs in a day given the current dispensation; that’s only eight more than what they would in a one-day game and that’s in just three-and-a-half hours.
They cannot complain.
The batters are to shoulder the extra responsibility and not count on the tail to wag. It is their job; they are specialists.
What Team India also needs to figure out is how to tackle counter-attacking batsmen. Man-of-the-match Dinesh Chandimal revealed that he and his partners batted as though it were an ODI. Well, if that’s the case, why doesn’t the Indian skipper set an ODI field? Drying up the runs would have certainly lessened the damage especially when your bowlers seem to have run out of ideas.
It’s about adapting to the situation.
And the Indian media and former cricketers-turned-commentators should refrain from playing the blame game whenever India loses.
Sometimes, you have to admit that the other side played well and deserved to win for their ‘never-say-die’ attitude.
What he said:
“I was starting to stiffen up already.”
Michael Hussey is not a wordsmith. The veteran Australian batsman describes his relief at being taken off after bagging his third Test wicket snaring Kumara Sangakkara.
“I think it was disbelief initially. I couldn’t believe Michael Clarke was going to give me a bowl, when he said that he did sort of say he wouldn’t mind giving me a couple of overs because with a little bit less pace they might be able to chip one out to cover and obviously he was spot on the money. Particularly about the lack of pace and chipping it up to cover.”
“I was pretty shocked but obviously it was a very valuable wicket for the team and I’ll take it any day of the week because he’s obviously one of the of the best players in the world and they had a pretty good partnership going. To be able to break that and then give the guys a chance with the ball reversing a little bit was very fortuitous.”
On skipper Michael Clark’s decision to give him the ball:
“Yeah, well I think there was method to his madness.It wasn’t just about let’s just give anyone a go, it was about trying to bowl a little bit slower. The pitch was slow and it was a little bit hard to drive and Sangakkara probably showed that throughout his innings.”
“It was quite hard to force the ball down the ground, hard to time the ball. Try someone who can take the pace off a little bit more and you never know, he might be able to creat (sic) something and yeah, he was right. He’s certainly a thinking captain and yeah, he had the golden hand today.”
What Hussey really meant:
“I’m not as limber as I used to be.”
What Hussey definitely didn’t:
“I’m Mr. Fantastic.”
What he said:
“What has been happening was the player trying to be the ruler. If the player becomes the ruler we can’t play a game."
Sri Lankan sports minister, Upali Dharmadasa, is less than pleased with Kumara Sangakkara’s speech at the Marylebone Cricket Club exposing the shenanigans within the Sri Lankan Cricket Board.
What he really meant:
“We politicians can’t play cricket, can we? But neither can he (Sangakkara), if he’s administrating. Does he want a party ticket?”
What he definitely didn’t:
“By the players, for the players, of the players.”
"When you play as a cricketer, they all love you as a unit. When you go to a [political] party, naturally it’s divided. So I need to face that.Just before I came to politics, I thought of that, and I know it’s going to be a half-half situation – unless you’re a very big fan of mine."
Sanath Jayasuriya accepts that he will not be adored unconditionally as a politician, as he was when he was merely a cricketer. The Sri Lankan legend is a member of parliament on a ticket from President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
What he really meant:
“Politics is divisive and so are politicians.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I do things by half.”
“It was another great innings today. He’s a pain in the backside, to be honest.”
Sri Lankan coach, Stuart Law, minces no words in his assessment of Ian Bell’s contribution to his side’s travails in the Test series against England.
What he really meant:
“Bell has been the backbone of this English side—to our detriment.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’ve ordered extra padding in our players’ trouser seats. And loads of Zandu balm.”
“We realise you guys have got a job to do, and if I give you ammunition you’re going to fire the gun.”
Kevin Pietersen concedes it is the press’ prerogative to criticise if he does not perform as expected. He, however, challenges the perception that he is vulnerable to left-arm spin.
What he really meant:
“The sporting press feeds off the players. If the players achieve, they’re demi-gods, virtually untouchable. If they do not, they’re worse than pariahs, to be torn down.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“You—the press—were firing blanks at me. It didn’t hurt—at all.”
If the Indian cricket team had selected Baba Ramdev as the team physio, then the men in blue could have been as flexible on the field as the sadhu himself. However, his insidious influence would rub off on them and at the first signs of terror from pace bowlers, bruised batsmen would migrate to women’s cricket.
If Barack Obama were to lose the 2012 Presidential elections, he could always consider coaching the Los Angeles Lakers. “Yes, we can” would resonate with Lakers fans, too. “It’s not the economy, stupid” could do just as well.
The Sri Lankans are here.
Raise the curtain on the Lions— English and Lankan.
Can we have a Bell please? Yes, it’s Ian, in the mix.
No Straussing about who’s going to lead the side. No rueing and hewing about it.
Can we Cook up a barbeque for the islanders? Nice and warm and sizzling, followed by climbing Alistairs for exercise.
Trotting up and down is good calisthenics, too.
Can Pietersen be omitted? What! And miss out on free Brylcreem?
Eoin and Ian? Is there a difference? Morgan powder to use on unwelcome visitors.
Prior behind. Does that sound right?
No Matting wickets here, pal. We’re British, we like our pitches green.
The WAGS insist Broad has to be in. No Stuart excuses can keep him out.
Give us a Swann to make the ugly ducklings look good.Tremble before Tremlett, Lankan lambs.
Games and James can’t be uncoupled,can they?
Let’s ring Finnish to the selections. It’s time for tea and scones, Steve.
Bopara? Is that the chap serving?
Quote of the day:
Facts are the enemy of truth. – Miguel de Cervantes