Bangladesh v India, 1st Test, Mirpur, 1st day January 24, 2010

The worst is behind me - Ishant Sharma

On a day when the young Mahmudullah experienced the special joy of his successful baby steps in Test cricket, another young man sighed in relief thinking about his past. Ishant Sharma has been through tough times and though only the upcoming home series against South Africa will offer the real evidence of his escape from the hellhole, he reckons he is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"I had never seen such hard times in my life," Ishant said about those dark days when he lost form and his critics found their voice. "It was a really big challenge and I was so desperate to perform at that time. Nothing was working. Before that, for two to three years, I was just going up, up and up." And then he crash landed.

Last year, he only picked 10 wickets from four Tests at an average of 46.90, and let's not even talk about his horrors in ODIs. In his last Test, before this series, he leaked 135 runs from 35 overs. He was overlooked for Sreesanth in the next Test (in Kanpur). Life would have been anything but beautiful.

The first fall from success can be the hardest to handle, and Ishant is just 21. Insecurity can make you can feel very alone in those times. However, luckily for Ishant, he was given a shot at a comeback. "I would like to thank the management for giving me chances in the ODIs against Sri Lanka," he said. "Even I didn't feel I deserved the spot in those two games. I am really thankful for the confidence and support."

Virender Sehwag was the captain in both those games, in Cuttack and Kolkata. Ishant's selection might just not be a coincidence, as he himself said. "I am very thankful to Veeru bhai because he because he had a lot to do with me playing in the first Test [in Chittagong]."

Ishant also talked about learning from those dark days. "You needed patience to get out of those times. I have realised that a cricketer has to go through those kinds of patches in his life and it has been a great learning experience for me. It was needed, I guess."

Through this series, one visual has been a recurring theme: Zaheer Khan chatting with Ishant during and at the end of the overs. Ishant said he was really grateful for the words of advice, "Zaheer has been always helpful. He always talks to me, whether I am bowling well or badly, and I am really thankful for such support." He also responded to a direct question on the contribution of Eric Simons, India's new bowling consultant. "Till now, it's going good with him; he has given tips about my wrist position and bowling action."

There has been a definite improvement in the lines he bowled but since it came against a batting line-up which has shown a tendency to self-destruct, the stamp of seal can only come after his battles against South Africa.

"I am bowling better, in better rhythm and it has been a very good start to the New Year. It feels good to do well and be confident going into next tough series coming up against South Africa."

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo