'I was not expecting this' - Sharma
"I was not expecting this," said Ishant Sharma on the call he received from Professor Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's chief administrative officer, at noon on Friday. Shetty had called to inform Sharma that he should get ready to leave for Bangladesh to join the Indian team for the remainder two-Test series as a replacement for Munaf Patel.
"Even if I wasn't thinking of getting a call now I know anything is possible", says Sharma, who came into the national reckoning late last year when he was a strong contender to replace the injured Munaf Patel for the Test series in South Africa. The fact that call never materialised doesn't bother Sharma, whose stock has been rising like his height especially over the last two seasons.
Tall - he stands 6'4" in socks - and lanky, Sharma found his way into the Delhi side in 2005-06 through with his prolific performances in the Under-19 matches, where his disconcerting bounce had batsmen running for cover. The art of pitching it short has always been his USP. Twenty-nine wickets at 20.10 made him the state's best bowler, and ninth nationally in terms of most wickets.
Sharma believes he is steadily understanding the nuances of becoming a better fast bowler by focusing more on "line and length, and trying to be more patient."
Chetan Chauhan, Delhi's coach, says his attacking instincts form the strongest facet of Sharma's repertoire. "He is an attacking bowler and is not shy of letting go of the short one irrespective of the batsman," says Chauhan, no stranger who himself had copped quite a few from the best fast men of his time. Chauhan's confidence in Sharma comes from his hard work and his readiness to bend his back. "He is young and a very hardworking boy who has worked himself into the side. He loves to train, practice and gives his heart and soul when he is bowling, which is a great thing for a fast bowler."
In June 2006 Cricinfo Magazine had carried a feature story on the probable 'Third XI' for India which contained names that could be doing rounds in the years to come. Talent Research Development Officers (TRDOs) across the country were asked to nominate their choices and Sharma's name was a popular one among the pundits, who predicted an India cap sooner or later.
Aakash Chopra, Delhi captain last year and one-time India opener, feels Sharma has the ability to handle pressure. "He has been a revelation, has handled pressure well and has hunted profitably along with Ashish Nehra." Chopra feels being in the Indian dressing room is a learning experience for anybody and it will help Sharma understand himself much better.
Sharma agress completely. "In the end cricket is all about experience, so being involved in the Indian dressing room would definitely be a learning experience and I want to enjoy that."
Nagraj Gollapudi is Assistant Editor of Cricinfo Magazine