I am mentally stronger now - Ishant Sharma
India fast bowler Ishant Sharma has described his time away from the national team as the worst phase of his life, but the experience has made him mentally stronger and hungrier to make a full-fledged comeback. Ishant, who underwent an ankle surgery earlier this year, was in the Test squad for the home series against New Zealand in August but didn't get a game.
Ishant last played for India in the Australia Tests but had to skip the IPL this year for the sake of the surgery. He began the domestic season with three wickets for Rest of India in the Irani Cup, and separate hauls of 4 for 29 in the Challenger Trophy and Duleep Trophy quarter-final.
"I think I am mentally and physically much stronger now after having gone through the worst phase of my life," Ishant said after helping North Zone to the semi-final in the Duleep Trophy against West Zone.
"Nobody asked me where I was (when out of the team). In a way, it's good that it (injury) happened to me. But my family and friends have been very supportive."
He said he had no regrets over missing the IPL for the sake of his fitness. Last year, Virender Sehwag risked playing the IPL despite an injured shoulder. He decided to get a surgery done midway through the tournament but it meant that he had to miss the West Indies tour and part of the England Tests that followed. Ishant, who missed the short tour of Sri Lanka in July, had been training in Bangalore to work himself back to fitness before the start of this season.
"I gave it a lot of thought [undergoing the ankle surgery] before going ahead with it. Missing the IPL was my decision and I don't have any complaints," Ishant said. "The fact that I had time for myself helped. As part of my rehabilitation, I was in the NCA (National Cricket Academy) for three months, training from 10AM to 5PM. I worked on my body and gained strength. There were several long and tough sessions but I guess hard work pays off."
He said he had worked on his outswinger. "I still continue to bowl with the same kind of intensity. Bowling a lot in the nets has helped. I have also learnt to bowl the outswinger," he said.
"It was Joe Dawes (India bowling coach) who taught me the outswinger during the New Zealand series recently. Eric Simmons (Dawes' predecessor) was also very helpful."
India's next international assignment is the home Test series against England starting November 15. Ishant hoped that his good start to the season would help him reclaim his place in the Test line-up, which includes first-choice seamers Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav.