India in England 2014 June 30, 2014

'Ishant should step up and lead attack' - Zaheer


Zaheer Khan wants Ishant Sharma to take over from him as the leader of India's fast-bowling group. Ishant, according to Zaheer, has enough experience to be able to guide his fast-bowling colleagues during India's five-Test series in England. Of the six frontline seam bowlers in India's squad, Ishant is the only one who has toured England before. Zaheer, who has been part of three England Test tours, missed out on selection with a side strain.

"It is Ishant who has played the most number of matches and he has been around for a while," Zaheer told ESPNcricinfo. "It is time he steps into that role. For Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] and [Mohammed] Shami, it is their first (England) tour so they will look to Ishant and [bowling coach] Joe Dawes for inputs to perform in those conditions."

Despite having played 55 Test matches, Ishant hasn't really shown signs that he could be looked at as the bowling captain. He has only played four Tests in England, during India's 2011 tour, during which he took 11 wickets. Incidentally, it was Praveen Kumar who led the attack - after an injured Zaheer limped out of the tour after just 13 overs in the first Test - and finished the series as India's best bowler, with 13 wickets in three Tests.

Ishant was India's best bowler in the two-Test series in New Zealand earlier this year, with 15 wickets at an average of 25.13, and bowled diligently during the South Africa tour before that. Zaheer, though, was present on both tours to mentor Ishant and Shami.

Zaheer was impressed with Shami, who he said possessed "very good pace" and complemented the rest of India's seam attack very well. "I was also impressed by someone like Mohammed Shami, who was able to perform the pace bowler's role very nicely," Zaheer said. "For a successful bowling unit you require a good fast bowler with very good pace and Shami has that. And that helped me cope with my workload. You do need a balanced bowling attack. You can't have bowlers with similar styles. It was a perfect combination we had, I felt. Ishant, being a very tall guy, adds that extra bounce on helpful pitches. If conditions are suitable for swing, I come in and also bring the experience."

Shami was once again the pick of the bowlers in the Indians' first warm-up match, a three-day game against Leicestershire that finished in a draw. Although Shami remained wicketless, he hurried the batsmen with his speed and movement and was able to make use of the overcast conditions much better than his senior partner Ishant. Ishant started with a no-ball - he finished with an embarrassing count of seven in just nine overs - and was constantly riled by Indian fans from the sidelines. Zaheer pointed out that a long series always provide the potential to settle in, and it would help India's fast bowlers to play as many matches as possible. "If you hit a good rhythm a series like this is the best thing that can happen to a bowler," he said. "Play as much as possible. It is important to get the confidence of bowling in those conditions and the two practice matches are crucial for the bowling unit to get used to the conditions and hit the ball in the right areas."

Zaheer said he would dearly miss being part of the Test series, having been part of three England tours in the past and played a key role in winning the 2007 series with 18 wickets. During the New Zealand tour, Zaheer said, the team management had told him to stay prepared for the England tour and manage his workload accordingly. He suffered a side strain during the IPL, however, and is still four weeks from being able to bowl again.

"That was the whole plan (playing in England)," Zaheer said. "I have been working towards this tour for the last year. I was focusing on Test matches. Even through the IPL my routines were working towards the England tour. Considering all that it was disappointing to miss out. I just hope that Indian team does well on English soil."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Bhalchandra on July 6, 2014, 15:23 GMT

    First of all, what Ishant needs is a good county season, as Zaheer recommended previously. Prior to that, he must resolve his technical bowling problems. And the best solution is to practice in nets without the pressure of representing the nation. Hope it goes well and god knows may be Ishant is a good candidate to break Anil Bhai's record (just a wild guess).

    Secondly, I hate the concept of Spearhead. Consider these units: Spin quartet of India, Pace quartet of West India, Australia (Glenn, Jason, Shane, Brett), Pakistan(Wasim, Waqar, Saqlain, Mushi), South Africa(Dale, Vernon, Morne, Jacques). Do these attacks have bowling captain? If India needs to have good bowling unit, what they need is self sufficient bowlers. One good way to get best is to deny 1000 bad.


  • Dal on July 4, 2014, 15:28 GMT

    Ishant shouldn't be anywhere near the India side, nor should Ashwin he got out bowled by Jadeja.

    4 seamers with Binny (no Ishant) plus Jadeja

  • Dummy4 on July 3, 2014, 19:28 GMT

    I want dhoni to support his seamers by providing them there own field and also providing them with the new ball aftr 80 overs,as conditions are gud for seamers so new ball help seamers to pick up the wickets. Dhoni should play attacking role while batting and in captaining the side. I dnt want him to do the same mistake as he did vs SA, dat taking new ball after 146 overs. dnt think of saving runs,think of picking up wickets.

  • sid on July 2, 2014, 18:30 GMT

    Does anyone remember all the furor when Stuart Binny was included in this England tour? People accused Roger Binny of nepotism, even though he excused himself when the name of Stuart Binny came up for discussion. Look at Stuart Binny's performance today and in the Bangladesh ODI. Winning triple crown (3 domestic tournaments) in the same year counts for something. There should have been more Karnataka player's in this tour. Karnataka Ranji team is better than this India test side at the moment.

  • niaz on July 2, 2014, 15:49 GMT

    Its not that Ishant cannot do better. Shami, Umesh, B. Kumar, Pankaj Singh, Pandey all have better FC records and should be tried out. Ishant has been very inconsistent. If he needs to find his consistency, he should try it at the FC level. Even in ODI's IPL he has been very poor. He had a good NZ tour though. Also he releases the pressure by bowling bad balls so he does not help his bowling partner.

  • Dark on July 2, 2014, 6:57 GMT

    @ ramz30380 & @jinxed1184: Look at ishants record in indian wins people.. then you can see how good he is. when the team fails, it is not fair to blame it on his bowling. he is an asset in tests. Im sure you two must have gone against jadeja too those days. now he has become the best spin bowling allrounder in the world in T20s and ODIs. Thanks to dhoni. dhoni knows ishant too is in that caliber as a fast bowler. england batting line up is weak. it was shown clearly during the SL series. ishant just needs to pick one wicket early to boost his confidence, that will bring him many more wickets and india will win the 5 tests easily. then lets see what you too has to say!!

  • Dummy4 on July 2, 2014, 5:06 GMT

    Zaheer absence will be felt by the Indians. Ishant does not deserve to be in the team. Shammi and Bhubi will play key roles. I am optimistic that Dhoni and co. will definitely perform well. Considering recent form of England and losing to SL in the last series will have demoralized effect on them and India must exploit this and come out winner. Best of luck! Wazir

  • Dummy4 on July 2, 2014, 3:28 GMT

    Jose: Well the good news then is that he has quite possibly played himself out of the playing eleven!

  • Dummy4 on July 2, 2014, 2:17 GMT

    Half-volleys, short and wide ones, grit for leg-byes, and of course liberal dozes of no-balls; that is our bowling spearhead. 7 no-balls in the first match and 9 no-balls in the second are said to be just official. Read this sentence from the 2nd Match's report:

    "...Ishant officially overstepped nine times in 12 overs, but there were quite a few deliveries that might have been reviewed if they had taken a wicket in a Test...."


  • niaz on July 1, 2014, 23:29 GMT

    Tests 55 wickets 164 average 37.56 SR 67.2 7. Shami, Pandey, Umesh, Kumar all have better FC records than Ishant. Almost all the indian quicks who played alongside with Ishant (and played more than 20 tests) did better than Ishant. Cannot argue with a long term result. Jadeja and Ishant are different cases. Jadeja is an allrounder and a left arm spinner (their job is limit the batsmen unless its turning). Jadeja has played 51 tests got 180 wickets at Average 26 and SR 66. Which is not bad for a left arm spinner whose job is to bowl a lot of overs to keep the pacers fresh. Jadeja being almost a test batsman, makes it even easier. India can play 4 other bowlers with him and keep everyone fresh.

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