India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 5th day October 5, 2010

Ishant's attitude wins hearts

Tests like this, where Ishant Sharma busts his gut for scant rewards, will make him ready for the ones more personally rewarding

This Test shows just why Ishant Sharma is still a part of the Indian team. And that reason is not his batting - without which VVS Laxman wouldn't have been able to win India this great Test match. It's the attitude he brings, the determination and the temperament that has made him a favourite with the team management, and who can blame them?

Struggling with his knee, Ishant bowled 10 no-balls in his 11 overs in the first innings, going for 71 runs. He went off, took injections for the pain, and came back on the next morning to field for more than a session so that he could bowl in the same innings. He might have been short on confidence, but he was not found wanting on the effort.

In a scathing interview to ESPNcricinfo recently, India's former bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad spoke unflatteringly of some of Indian fast bowlers' attitude. Ishant, though, he couldn't stop praising. "He's somebody who works extremely hard at the nets," Prasad said. "He bowls in the nets at the same intensity with which he would bowl in a match. He has a great work ethic."

Ishant has had reasons to work hard after his success in Australia in 2007-08. Results haven't always been forthcoming, but Ishant has battled away. On the fourth morning, after yet another disappointing first spell, Ishant was ready as ever when called for another. A little slice of luck, the Shane Watson bottom edge, worked wonders for the confidence, and for a brief period he was the same threatening bowler again. He was completing his action better, he was following through better, and he was now looking the batsman in the eye. Three wickets later, his job had been done.

Not quite, as he discovered on the next morning. He came out to join Laxman, with 92 runs required for what looked like an impossible win. For the 106 minutes that followed, Laxman showed confidence in Ishant, who did nothing to suggest that the trust was misplaced. In fact Ishant faced more bowling than Laxman, who would often take singles early in the overs.

They bounced Ishant, they yorked him, they tried to entice him with the flight, but nothing worked. He showed the temperament of a veteran, getting behind the short balls, not minding an odd blow in the shoulder area. The biggest attributes of his effort were how he left outside off, and how he was always awake to possibilities of running hard to manoeuvre the strike.

Laxman was not stingy in praise for his partner-in-rescue. "He had been struggling with the injury," Laxman told ESPNcricinfo. "The last three-four days he has been taking injections on his leg. To come and bowl as well as he did yesterday, and then this innings, was a marvellous effort.

"What impressed me most about him was the temperament. We had little chats in the middle. And when, towards the end, Mitchell Johnson troubled him, he told me he wasn't comfortable facing him. Then only I started to try and face more of Johnson. It was important to have that trust. There was no way I could have done it alone. But I have always had a lot of confidence in Ishant."

When Ishant was finally dismissed, thanks to a heartbreakingly wrong decision considering how much hard work he had put in here, he could not be consoled. He smashed his bat into the ground on his way back, then into his pads, and walked like Inzamam-ul-Haq, if such a thing is possible for a tall, thin fellow.

There will surely be Test matches where he will work half as hard, and walk away with match awards. And Tests like this, where he busts his gut for scant rewards, will make sure he is there to play the Tests more rewarding in nature.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shehan on October 9, 2010, 6:14 GMT

    Overrated!!! He performs well in 1 out of 10 matches he plays and that even in India where the conditions are familiar and are supportive. Nehra & Pathan are much better than this joke.

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2010, 12:56 GMT

    I still have a doubt on Inshant's future in cricket. He's been amongst who make his presence after 5 series..

  • Runster on October 7, 2010, 11:31 GMT

    Sharma took his revenge!!!! AUSSIES THAT CHEATED IN THE INFAMOUS SYDNEY TEST WERE PUNISHED!! pity symonds wasnt there to watch their defeat. sharma stuck there and said NO to sledging feisty johnson. i do feel sorry for ponting...but the pain that many indians felt after that sydney test cancels out pity feelings. Sharma, u are GUN!!! Go sharma. Go india.

  • Bridget on October 7, 2010, 2:03 GMT

    The Aussie bowlers really let this one go. How many balls did he face? How many of those were short of a length outside off stump. The Aussie quicks needed to bowl a full length, stump to stump.....yorkers with the odd bouncer aimed straight at Ishants head.....He is a tailender and the Aussies have blown another test match win..... And don't get me started on useless Hauritz....why is he even in the team?????

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2010, 23:52 GMT

    How about all of us Indians get together and start a petition campaign to force BCCI to adopt the UDRS? The game needs it. BCCI is awash with money - surely they can spend that much.

  • Srikanth on October 6, 2010, 20:03 GMT

    People scold Ishant not because of hatred; They scold him for not using his ability and become a great bowler. People had (have) confidence in Ishant to become a good bowler and server Indian cricket for a long time. But he has lost his rhythm, confidence, line, length..all except few occasional cameos. WE LOVE YOUR HARD WORK, WORK ETHIC TO BECOME A GOOD BOWLER. WE WISH YOU ALL THE BEST TO BECOME THE MAN. You have showed great character to win this match for us. Will not say a single word against for atleast 3 months :)

  • Nasser on October 6, 2010, 19:41 GMT

    As a Pakistan supporter, and an Indian supporter when Pakistan is not playing, I was very plesanatly surprised with India's win. A win from a nearly hopeless situation is always the greatest performance. What a fighter Ishant is - and such fighting spirit lifts the whole team. Unlike Laxman, Ishant cannot be sure of his place in the national team. The selectors must however give him more chances. As far as Laxman is concerned, we all have known what a complete batsman he has been over the years and what tremendous fighting instinct he has. His performances against the best team (of the last 15 years) speak volumes. Well done, India!

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2010, 19:29 GMT

    Great question Victor D Cunha, probably u should "Ask Steven" :P

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2010, 16:48 GMT

    seeing both injured players playing, I was wondering whether there was ever a time when there were runners for both players. Could anyone enlighten me?

  • Haris on October 6, 2010, 15:57 GMT

    A magnificient win for India and for test cricket in general. VVS Laxman has proved once again that there is no substitute for attitude and mental toughness.Well played Ishant ! I have not been a fan of his, but all credit goes to him for his excellent and determined effort with bat and ball. The only disappointing thing about this match was the umpiring. Some of the decisions were ATROCIOUS !! We badly need the UDRS to be applied to all forms of international cricket. Come on BCCI/ICC- you can afford it ! Looking forward to a great 2nd test and ODI series

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