England v India, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 5th day July 21, 2014

Ridiculed Ishant ridicules England

Ishant Sharma has often been the butt of jokes, and sometimes deservedly so. Today, however, the joke was on England
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Play 03:52
Ishant bowls short, England fall short

"LOL is Ishant Sharma's middle name."

Bangalore, 2007. India have made 626. Pakistan are 96 overs into their innings and every batsman has made a double-figure score. There have already been three hundreds and a double-hundred. A teen, more like a young boy, with more hair than any human needs and an extremely prominent Adam's apple, comes on to bowl.

A ball from a good length jumps up and makes Faisal Iqbal's forward defence look idiotic. It flies off the gloves to a deepish short leg. It is one of five wickets in the innings for a 19-year old bowling on the many remains of deceased seamers who went before him.

India had found their missing link.

"Ishant Sharma is God's answer to BCCI's wrongdoings."

'Why does Ishant Sharma keep getting picked?' It's one of the most asked questions to people who have just admitted they are cricket journalists. You cannot escape that when you have played over 50 Tests and average more than 35. The current Australian team might be number one, but mainstays and recent sensations Steve Smith, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson have been at times the most abused victims of their fans.

Indian fans, when they were taking a break from abusing Rohit Sharma, would whip the Ishant boy all over social media. Tall for nothing. Over-rated. Slow. Can't keep his foot behind the line. Can't move the ball away from right-handers. Falls apart under pressure. Google suggests Ishant-Sharma jokes as its third search suggestion.

It's also not a shock to see why he is still around. He's tall. He's fast. He gets natural movement. He can reverse swing the ball. They don't grow on trees in India, or really, anywhere. If he uses all these things right, he's a match-winner. He's also a match loser. Ishant isn't as fast as Johnson, or as tall as Morne Morkel. On a bad day, he is a fast-medium bowler with a no-ball problem and average control. Potential is a powerful aphrodisiac.

"Behind every successful batsman there is a Kamran Akmal, but in front of them is Ishant Sharma."

A typical good Ishant delivery is angled in at the right-hander. The good ones swing further in and carry above the stumps to the keeper with a bit of heat on it. Akmal missed one such delivery like this. And Ishant decided to tell him about it. Loudly.

The scene looks bad because Ishant is screaming over Akmal, who is about a foot and three inches of hair shorter. Not to mention sledging a guy with an ODI batting average of 26 is like picking on the kid who isn't allowed to use scissors in class. Ishant has to be removed from the situation.

Against Australia, Ishant decided to sledge David Warner at the WACA during the innings where Warner swung and connected with India's head. Warner came back with verbal aggression and they had to be separated. But not before Warner said, "You're kidding yourself, you are a bad bowler".

A short poor ball from Ishant is cut by Root. India are sure it is out. Ishant is more sure. He's surer than sure. He stands a few feet from Root and discusses it with him. And discusses it. And discusses. Eventually the two have to be removed. Replays show Ishant may not have been right. Although I doubt any replay could have changed his mind.

It's not even just small aggressive batsmen that Ishant likes. During a piece of glacier-like fielding from Zaheer Khan, Ishant used a term that suggested an incestuous relationship after watching the ageing seamer allow an extra run.

Ishant has the anger.

"There are good bowlers, and there are poor bowlers. Then there's 500 feet of crap, and then there's Ishant Sharma."

Australia need 44 from 18.

47.1 A wide half-volley. Four.
47.2 A short ball. Six.
47.3 A straight half-volley. Six.
47.4 A short ball. Two.
47.5 A short ball. Six.

"47.6 I Sharma to Faulkner, SIX, SIX MORE, what on earth? Ishant Sharma had his critics before this game, there aren't going to be many people backing him after this, short once more, another pull, right off the middle off the bat, and that sails into the crowd once more, crowd not sure whether to be gobsmacked by this hitting from Faulkner or be thrilled by this sensational turnaround, that's Faulkner's 50 as well"

Australia win with three balls to spare.

"Dear single guys, if a girl gives you as many chances as Dhoni has given Ishant Sharma, marry her."

Ishant's last Test started with him cutting down New Zealand's top order. He bowled quick. The ball moved. And Ishant took 6 for 51. There were sexy short balls and tricky straight balls. It was lovely and New Zealand had no answer to it. It was the sort of performance that should have justified the selectors faith in him.

The next innings in the same game, Ishant bowled 45 overs, took no wickets and went for 164 runs. It doesn't seem to matter how good or bad Ishant is, Ishant remains.

"Dhoni isn't India's greatest finisher, Ishant Sharma is."

The 50th over at Trent Bridge started with a no-ball. Ishant bowls a lot of no balls. Ishant is known for no balls. Then Ishant bowled a fast, reverse-swinging ball that tailed in and smashed into Sam Robson's pads. Ishant does bowl reverse-swinging balls that tail in and smash into pads. Ishant is known for reverse-swinging balls that tail in and smash into pads. Ishant aggressively sent off Robson. Ishant often does aggressive send-offs. Ishant is known for aggressive send-offs. Ishant then bowled a short, slow long-hop that Ian Bell smacked for four. Ishant bowls a lot of short, slow long-hops that get smacked for four. Ishant is known for short, slow long-hops that get smacked for four. Ishant bowls a ball drifting down leg side. Ishant bowls a lot of balls drifting down leg side. Ishant is known for drifting the ball down the leg side.

That was one over. That was Ishant's career.

"It was Ishant Sharma's stunning form that made MS Dhoni take up bowling".

A highlight package of Ishant's best work looks as good as anything. Balls flying off a length. Quick swinging balls. Fast short balls. The hair, the necklace, the stare, the aggression. This is a fast bowler; you can smell it through the screen.

Ishant's best delivery is a short of a length ball that angles in, tails further in and bounces quite well to the keeper. It's a sexy ball, but it's not that likely to get you out. An edge will probably be an inside edge that flies past the keeper. His height means the ball goes over the stumps. It's essentially a theatre ball for people to "oh" and "ah" about. In the end, it's a tragedy delivery. It's the unlucky Ishant ball.

Ishant was once clocked at 152kph, but his wrist doesn't stay behind the ball like it did that summer. Sometimes his head falls away as well. If you can get the ball to reverse in, you should also have the attributes to conventionally swing the ball out. Somehow Ishant doesn't. He's flawed. And he's a rhythm bowler, which is often code for - he can be good, or really rubbish.

"RT if you can bowl better than Ishant Sharma!"

Australians have a different view of Ishant. They saw the young kid on his first tour bowl very good, and on occasion, very quick. This is despite the fact he only averages 44 against Australia, has an average of 73 in Australia and only has a best of 3 for 115 in Australia. It's because of how many times Ishant dismissed Ricky Ponting.

In 2008, Ishant took Ponting's wicket five times in Tests. Five times. Ishant had the pace and bounce, and when combined with a bowler who naturally moved the ball in, it was something Ponting never did well against. Here was a teenager doing it. Over, and over, and over again.

Somehow this guy had made a master look like an awkward teen. They had switched places. It wasn't just the wickets that he took, but how silly Ponting looked in them. His bat splayed weirdly. His balance leaving him. He was always late. He was always trying to survive. At the other end he would be Ponting, at Ishant's end he was the soon-to-be-massacred bunny.

Ponting eventually overcame it, and was only ever dismissed twice more in Tests by Ishant. By then though, the bunny stuff had stuck. And so it should. How many bowlers in Ponting's career dominated him for a minute, let alone a year?

If you couldn't get excited with Ishant at that stage, you were really fighting against basic human instincts.

"Newton's third law modified: For every N Srinivasan, there is an equal and opposite Ishant Sharma."

In the tour game in Leicestershire before Trent Bridge, Ishant conceded 64 runs in nine overs. He took two wickets, but even his mother would find it hard to justify that spell. It was made worse by the fact that his team-mates never took any of the Leicestershire players for more than five an over.

Today, in his last seven overs, Ishant took five wickets for 27 runs. He did it with five short balls. He did it with pace. He did it with energy. He did it with passion. He did it with all his flaws. He did it.

He will forever be the bowler who bowled India to victory at Lord's.

If you allow me to walk you through the third wall for a moment, you may notice that there are some "jokes" in quotations throughout this piece. When you google Ishant Sharma, 'Ishant Sharma jokes' is the third result. There are many, many, many websites with lists of these jokes. There is much history to make fun of. Little of it can be realistically defended.

Ishant's age at the moment is 25. Ishant is much maligned. Ishant is unlucky. Ishant is a bad bowler. Ishant is a 25-year old Indian quick who just took 7 for 74 at Lord's to win a Test.

Today the joke was on England.

Jarrod Kimber was 50% of the Two Chucks, and is the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on July 28, 2014, 11:19 GMT

    Superb article, beautifully summarizing the 6 years of Ishant Sharma in Indian Cricket, an enigma, a prodigy, an unfulfilled potential but finally he has arrived as a match winner and i just pray that this is just the beginning of many more such performances. For all those who keep criticize him, just look at your own selves. I have been a fan of Ishant since he burst on the seen in 2008 with that sensational spell he bowled to Ponting, he has had issues with consistency but his potential has never been doubted. I still doubt whether he should be taken for the 50over team but knowing that the World Cup is in Australia he will be an ideal bowler for those conditions. As far as Lords performance is concerned, it will undoubtedly go as one of the most aggressive spells bowled by an Indian where he bounced England out. Terrific Spell just hope he carries on his form like this and maintains his fitness. Hope he will continue to rise further and further.

  • Hardy1 on July 25, 2014, 13:57 GMT

    He's taken 6, 6 & 7 wicket hauls in 3 of his last 4 Test matches now. Here's hoping it continues.

  • ram_sachin on July 25, 2014, 3:13 GMT

    Such a delight to read this article.. Kudos to Jarod Kimber !

  • Johnny_129 on July 24, 2014, 9:15 GMT

    Like most, I have been a critic of Ishant but I only just read all the jokes about him! Now, I kinda feel sorry for the guy and see the humorous side. Couple of my favourites: i) Dhoni is not India's greatest finisher, Ishant is! :o) ii) Great fast bowlers reverse swing the ball - Ishant reverse swings the whole match! :o) Lol

  • memoriesofthepast on July 24, 2014, 8:55 GMT

    It is English batsmen, MSD and Bhuvi who have ridiculed Eng. Infact MSD has criticized Ishant. MSD has hinted that 1.92 m tall Ishant has to know by himself on how to use his plus points and dismiss the batsman. Dhoni has revealed to the media that Ishant has learn to be receptive to suggestions from team members. Ishant has played 57 test matches by now in international cricket. English batsmen have ridiculed themselves and their country by playing poor shots on a short ball of pace lower than those from Marshall or Akhtar and giving catches which the Ind fielders did not drop. 1.8m tall Malcolm Marshall had a lethal short ball as well as pace-he would get the batsman out or out as retired hurt. In 2003 WC match between Ind and Pak, it was ultimately a superb short ball from 1.82m tall Akhtar that dismissed a batter like Sachin who had made 98. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who got 6 wickets + scored 88 runs in the test and Dhoni deserved MOM much more than Ishant.

  • Johnny_129 on July 23, 2014, 16:11 GMT

    The answer to your question, "How many bowlers in Ponting's career dominated him for a minute, let alone a year"? Most of the great bowlers were in his own team BUT I recall a guy with a turban that looked like getting him out, every ball! See, Ishant had it all wrong when bowling to Ponting - He did not need the long hair, he needed a turban! Ishant really is an enigma, amongst all his failures he turns up with the rare great performance and secures his place only to punish that Indian fans further! But I really hope that Ishant will kick on from here and not return to his old lazy ways. In saying that, a five match series is very long to play the same pace bowling attack. With Binny being a bystander, the problem is exacerbated - India need to bring in another all-rounder in place of Binny. Perhaps Ashwin may be able to grab a wicket or two. Or if India are really bold they could replace Binny with a specialist pacer - Aaron, Pankaj or Pandey! I doubt that though. But NO ROHIT PLEASE

  • SrinivasPachari on July 23, 2014, 9:56 GMT

    In 2008, I watched Live how Ishant tormented the whole of Australian batsmen with movement and bounce off the pitch the entire series. I could see the troubled faces of Symmo, Ponting and Clarke. I was a sight I have never seen. I have not seen other bowling greats from the past, but since I have seen Steyn and Ishant during those times, I tell you, he was way better than Steyn. I know it could be hard to believe, but you do not get credit from Punter for free. Kudos to Ishant, I believe that, had he been coached and managed properly he would have been a brilliant bowler for India overseas. Great article!!! Come to think of it, it is very hard to believe that the deamon bowler I watched in awe in 2008 India -Australia series, has come down to this level of riducle.

  • vswami on July 23, 2014, 6:06 GMT

    @Chad Withyman : I remember that spell to Hayden. It wasnt a World Cup game but the triangular ODI series after the tests. India ran through Australian batting and bundled them out 150 odd that game and Ishant was unplayable with Hayden flailing and missing cluelessly. One of the problems that Indian fast bowlers seem to have is physical conditioning. I marvel at how Brett Lee maintained his body strength even as he crossed 32-33 and never lost pace while Indian fast bowlers seem to age and lose body strength.

  • mycricket2007 on July 23, 2014, 5:02 GMT

    Everybody is praising him since last two days. but he played almost 60 test matches and he got this brain now ! what a shame, it's better to give opportunity to others. after 60 test matches still captain has to advice him. with this one performance he will survive another 60 matches.

  • dummy4fb on July 23, 2014, 3:26 GMT

    Deep technical analysis and humor sprinkled throughout. He did it with passion. ‪#‎ Well‬ done unlucky Ishant! ‪#‎ Ishant‬ remains!