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?
Team India conceded the initiative and the series lead once again. The Indian team capitulated in three days at Old Trafford. It could have been all over sooner if it was not for the twelfth man for the Indian side—the rain.
The signs were ominous from the start. Pankaj Singh retained the confidence of his skipper and his place in the side.
Varun Aaron came in at the expense of Mohammad Shami. I truly feel for the UP bowler; he has been bowled into the ground since his début and is not the bowler he was at the start of his exciting career.
Aaron did enough to justify his place in the side. The inclusion of Ishwar Pandey could have made things even more interesting. I would rather have an express bowler in the side than a medium pacer on these pacy wickets especially when the journeyman is not a Zaheer Khan, that is, he lacks variety.
But the real story was that our much-vaunted batting line-up failed once more; the senior bats were made to look like novices against the moving ball.
The attitude of the new batting stars should undergo a sea change. Instead of muttering that things will be different when the English come to India—it was not, they beat us 2-1—it might be better that Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli consider a stint in county cricket to build their technique in overcast, murky conditions. The question is how and when? Will their IPL and Team India commitments allow them to do so? Or are these fancies to be indulged in only by players on the fringe of national selection?
Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan failed to deliver when it mattered. It is time that the selectors selected in-form batsmen for crucial overseas tours and not hope that they strike form on tour—a strategy fraught with obvious dangers.
Dhoni can gamble and have Naman Ojha or Rohit Sharma open the batting. I would go with the latter.
There appears to be no option but to persist with Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli and hope that their twin failures galvanise them to improve their performances and live up to the reputations of their predecessors—Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.
Ravindra Jadeja is another perennial favourite with his skipper. It is time he sat out.
Why does one have a sneaky feeling that the Indian skipper prefers either his Chennai Superkings teammates or players from the North?
Ishant Sharma makes his return to the side conditional on a full recovery from his ankle injury.
Pankaj Singh—at last—made the record books claiming two wickets in his second game. He is more suited for the shorter format of the game where containment is the name of the game.
My team choice for the Kensington Oval:
It was the same old story all over again. Ishant Sharma, the hero of the Lords test, looked on dejectedly, while his teammates squandered all his hard work and repaid him with a Sisyphean task for the final Test—if it comes to that.
Sharma injured his ankle and will be sitting out the fourth Test as well.
His replacement, Pankaj Singh, proved to be an inadequate replacement. His time is past though he is a game trier. A few chances of this bowling went a begging but if Dhoni was brave and honest with himself, he would have admitted that Varun Aaron or Ishwar Pandey were better bets. You do not replace your main strike bowler with a medium-pace trundler.
Rohit Sharma’s entry into the squad in place of Stuart Binny upset the balance of the squad. Just four main bowlers and two-three part-time spinners is hardly the recipe for a side looking to seal the series.
The Indian skipper does not have a lot of trust in his top order and preferred to either go in with an extra batsman or a couple of all-rounders. This decision seemed sound in the first two tests in retrospect; it was the lower order that saved the team blushes in the first three innings.
It is time MS Dhoni had a hard look at his resources and what he’s trying to do with them.
Gambhir has the gumption and the patience to play long innings. Bring to mind his effort at Napier, New Zealand in 2009.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli stay. Class will tell.
Rohit Sharma goes out. The talented Mumbaikar has even his most ardent fans tearing their hair out in frustration; I am but one amongst them. Duncan Fletcher should have a quiet word with the young man and tell him that if this continues he will be touring a lot more—with the India ‘A’ side.
Dhoni continues and should back himself to the hilt about being aggressive with the bat.
At the start of the series, Dhoni said:
“I’ve realised that I have to be far more aggressive in my batting because I play much better that way than when I try to play like a proper batsman. It’s important to back your instincts and not think too much about the situation. I shouldn’t look to bat out time because there are other batsmen who can do that. If the ball is in my slot – whether it’s the first or the last – I should go for it.”
They were not the most heralded of the Indian bats when the series began. But they have quietly become the mainstays of the line-up.
Ravindra Jadeja, bat and moustache twirled, sits out. Ravichandra Ashwin comes in.
(How the selectors could overlook Amit Mishra and Praghyan Ojha for such an important series is anybody’s guess. Among the back-ups, are two wicket-keepers who may probably never get a game. It is effectively a 15-member squad.)
Varun Aaron and Ishwar Pandey lend much-needed support to Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami.
My side for Old Trafford:
Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, B Kumar, M Shami, V Aaron and I Pandey.
What he said (via Espn Cricinfo):
“They (the Australians) are better at playing mind games than they are at playing the game.”
India pace spearhead Ishant Sharma has sensible words of advice for Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav for the upcoming tour of Australia.
Speaking to Mail Today, the lanky fast bowler expressed satisfaction with his performances this year. Sharma missed out on Team India’s ODI World Cup party.
It has been a very good year for me. I am happy with my rhythm and pace. Even though I didn’t get wickets on some occasions, I am pleased with the way I have bowled this year.But the learning process never stops. Even someone like Sachin Tendulkar says he is still learning about the game after 22 years. So I am always learning to improve. For me, every day is a new day.
Sharma will lead the inexperienced Indian attack if Zaheer Khan does not fully recover from his ankle injury.
Obviously, having Zaheer would be a huge bonus. But if he is not there, it would be an honour to lead the attack in Australia. It would be a great responsibility. Every fast bowler dreams of leading the attack for the country.Australia is going to be very exciting. But the key would be not to put pressure on yourself. If you keep thinking about results and wickets, it would only add to the pressure. So I would look to just enjoy myself. This time in Australia, patience will be the key.The thing is that Australian batsmen don’t like to be tied down and if you bowl patiently at them, you can pick wickets. So bowling tightly would be the best strategy.
Sharma looks forward to bowling in tandem with pace prospects, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron.
Bowling with Umesh and Varun is quite exciting. They have the pace and the best thing is they are willing to learn. The more they bowl, they more will learn to exploit the conditions.
What he really meant:
“Cricket’s played more in the mind than anything else and ,boy, don’t the Aussies know it.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Sledge me if you can.”
What he said:
"And it’s a lot of fun to hit people on the head."
Young Indian pacer from Jharkhand, Varun Aaron, has no intention of sacrificing pace as his career progresses.Aaron has been called up for the India-England ODI series, replacing the injured Ishant Sharma.
What he really meant:
“What’s the point of bowling quick if you don’t intimidate the opposition?”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’d rather hit heads than wickets.”