Indian cricket September 21, 2009

Tough times will help Ishant improve - Srinath

Ishant Sharma's struggles in limited-overs cricket in the last year are part of his growth as a cricketer, says former India fast bowler Javagal Srinath. Ishant has impressed in Tests but struggled with his lengths in ODIs and has been average recently in that format on the slow pitches in India, West Indies and Sri Lanka.

"These tough times are the best for him to learn about himself, about his bowling craft and develop," Srinath told Cricinfo.

Ishant averaged 31.48 and picked up 27 wickets in his first 20 ODIs. In 13 games in 2009, he has picked up 19 wickets at 31.42. The economy rate, though, has shot up from 5.34 to 6.19. On Sunday, in a ICC Champions Trophy warm-up game, he leaked 49 runs off seven overs and picked up a wicket.

There is a school of thought that Ishant should be given adequate breaks from ODIs to allow him to concentrate on Tests so that India don't risk losing a potent strike force in the longer version of the game. However, Srinath doesn't share that view.

"This is part and parcel of the development of a bowler. The second season is always going to be tougher for a cricketer. He has the basics right and he will go on to become a very good bowler for India. These tough times are the best for him to learn about himself, about his bowling craft and develop. From what I hear, he has a great attitude to learn and if he remains hungry, he will come out a better ODI bowler and as a result, a better bowler overall."

Srinath, however, is worried about the effects of too much criticism on such a young bowler. "It all depends on his attitude I guess but too much criticism can hurt. This is a very crucial stage. At this developmental stage, you can only develop the more you bowl and more you learn about yourself."

There are concerns that Ishant, who has a fragile body and not a smooth post-release routine where he almost stumbles a bit, can get injured with playing too many ODIs but Srinath believes that's a risk that he has to take at this stage. "That's the risk that you have to weigh against the results and only he can know about his body."

TA Sekhar, who ran the MRF Pace Academy with Dennis Lillee, shared the same view. "His strength is the pace and the bounce he gets from length and back of a length. That is his USP. I see no reason, for example, why should he cut down pace just to bowl a fuller length as some people have been suggesting.

"What's the use of him bowling like [Glenn] McGrath? People say cut down pace, concentrate on lengths … No way. I am sure he is in good hands with Venkatesh Prasad (the India bowling coach) who would get the best out of him. Obviously, Ishant has to tinker with a few things like lengths but he doesn't have to change anything drastically. He is just 19-20. This is the time to play more and improve. He has what we call the fast-twitch muscles. The body will grow stronger and importantly, he will be much the wiser for going through this phase."

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo