I love being the bowling spearhead - Ishant
A year ago Ishant Sharma was struggling to find a place in the Indian team in any of the formats but has since graduated to being the senior quick in the side, and is looking forward to leading India's bowling on their tour of South Africa in November.
"I love being the spearhead of the Indian bowling attack and it is a privilege for any fast bowler," he told the Times of India. "At the same time it is better not to think about these things and stay focused. Yes, I have to be ready for India's big tour of South Africa, but before that we also have the Champions League T20 and the ODIs against the Aussies."
He had undergone surgery in March 2012, which put him out of cricket until August. Having described the time spent from the national side as the worst phase of his life, Ishant returned to the squad for the home series against New Zealand, but he was unable to make the XI. In December 2012, he was thrust with the responsibility of leading the Indian attack when Zaheer Khan was dropped for the Nagpur Test against England.
Ishant consulted a specialist in Melbourne in February this year after a recurrence of pain in his ankle following the one-dayers against Pakistan and England. But since then, he struck form and was one of the architects of India winning the Champions Trophy final. Ishant's injuries have made him well aware of the work quick bowlers need to put in to stay fit.
"Fast bowling is about having the requisite strength and I need to gain strength," he added. "I have to build on my speed and endurance. I'm following the fitness regimen devised by the coaches at the National Cricket Academy and I am working quite hard. I go to the gym in the morning then break for lunch and return to bowling in the afternoons. I also go for swimming and take ice baths after rigorous training sessions."
Since Zaheer was sidelined from the one-day side in August last year, Ishant has picked up 30 wickets at an average of 25.50 in 18 matches. But he has not been able to replicate that form in Tests, with 11 wickets in six matches. "In my first three years of international cricket, I grew under Zak. Whatever I am is because of him," he said. "He taught me how to bowl. Everything that I do on the field is what I learnt from him. It will be great to have him back."
Zaheer has recently returned to India after working with Tim Exeter, former member of the Scotland Rugby squad, to improve his fitness and stamina in the south of France.