New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Wellington, 1st day February 14, 2014

Ishant's good avatar steps up

This version of Ishant, when he appears, you wonder why the bad one even exists. You wonder why the good one appears so sporadically over so many Tests

Crowe: 'Ishant, India's superstar of the Test series'

Someone who watched Ishant Sharma bowl for the first time in this Test series would wonder why he gets the criticism he does. A gangling fast bowler runs in and takes 15 wickets in three innings. What does the world expect him to do? Walk on water? And after all those wickets in Auckland and Wellington, who knows, he might pull that off too.

This version of Ishant, that is. The good Ishant. When he appears, you wonder why the bad one even exists. You wonder why the good one appears so sporadically over so many Tests. You know he lurks there, somewhere, hidden behind the bad one and all that hair. And when he does sneak through, he is a sight to watch.

The good version can be brought on early after the opening pair of fast bowlers has not been successful, and can deliver wickets with the new ball. He can then keep charging in for as long as the captain wants, rarely wavering from a tight line and length. He did the first bit both in Auckland and in Wellington - and at the latter he did the second too.

At Eden Park Ishant, and India, ceded the advantage after having New Zealand three down. They repeatedly bowled short, and short and wide, to Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson after lunch while the pitch was easing out, and paid for it. Ishant said after the day's play that India had got carried away looking at a fresh pitch in the first innings in Auckland, and accordingly tightened up in the next two innings.

There was no McCullum to deal with after lunch this time; he had gone to Mohammed Shami just before the break. The first ball of his spell in the second session, though, Ishant was swung for six over long-on by Corey Anderson. Three balls later, he was hit for four through mid-off. Both those balls were pitched up. The fuller length could go for runs on this pitch, as Shami had found earlier.

It is hard to say when it is easier to correct your length - when it is too short or too full. But Ishant corrected that length, and went back to what had worked for him in the morning to snare three batsmen. Short or short of a good length, the length that is his normal landing spot. He did show a sign or two of wavering, spraying a couple wide, but soon reverted to making Anderson play, and the wicket followed. The ball that fetched him his fifth wicket showed what Ishant could do on a helpful pitch. Not too full, not short, batsman going forward and Ishant's extra bounce, and some movement, defeating him.

It has to be said that this pitch was a very reliable ally, especially in the morning. There was bounce, zip and seam. But it is one thing to have help on offer, it is another to avail it. West Indies had allowed New Zealand to make 441 on the same ground on a slightly less spiteful surface after choosing to bowl a couple of months ago. Their fast bowlers had little control and little patience. Ishant had both.

Even his bowling colleagues trailed Ishant. Shami bowled some lovely deliveries and took four wickets, but he was often either too full or too short and conceded plenty of boundaries. Zaheer Khan had Kane Williamson caught at the stroke of lunch off a no-ball, but he did not make the batsmen play enough and generally lacked the bite, and consequently the threat, Ishant carried.

You would expect your senior bowler to step up in case the senior-most does not. It seemed to be happening in Auckland, but India and Ishant let it slip away. It happened in Wellington. Will we see more of the good Ishant from now on? That is for another day. For now, it was refreshing to see him bowl better than the rest, from both sides.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • android_user on February 15, 2014, 23:44 GMT

    @Incisor, in India we feel the other way. Even under helpful conditions, our bowlers let opponents score freely - into 500s and 600s. This essentially let India down in Australia and England (and more recently in SA and the first test vs. NZ)

  • Snehaa on February 15, 2014, 16:48 GMT

    Ishant is good with the Kookaburra and gets seam movement with a scrambled delivery. Duke or SG will give him no such assistance, hence average bowler overall

  • Incisor on February 15, 2014, 10:52 GMT

    Poor Old Ishant. As an Aussie I feel for him and indeed any pace bowler from India. Your pitches in India in tests do absolutely nothing to assist the likes of Ishant who in my opinion will be one of your main hopes you have touring down under this coming summer. Give him a break. He's a stern character who certainly puts everything in and is a lot better than his average suggests. His struggles overseas reflect nothing more than those struggles of the whole Indian team away from home. Not having anything more than 200 to bowl at will dent most bowlers confidence and average. Gee - It's certainly a batmen's world in India isn't it?

  • dummy4fb on February 15, 2014, 3:41 GMT

    Ishanth Sharma is a Luckiest Bowler, His talent finding by Anil Kumble

  • dummy4fb on February 15, 2014, 0:32 GMT

    Do not expect too much from Ishant. Just a couple of matches and here comes the laurels. Need to prove consistently and I am not sure he is going to do that. Just wait for the next series, you will see the real Ishanth.

  • dummy4fb on February 14, 2014, 22:53 GMT

    So what is so great about Ishant here, Shami took 4 and this guy took 6. Just 2 more wickets than other bowler, now people are saying he is the world class bowler etc. You guys have really short memory, when did Ishant last took MoM award in a test match? Nobody remembers, Indian team selection is so bad. If a player play one good match he will get 10 more chances. Why can't they be more aggressive in selection and use technical analysis rather than emotions.

  • JAYPEs on February 14, 2014, 22:28 GMT

    This good performance and 6 Wickets are going to cost a lot for Team India in the next World Cup.

  • Johnny_129 on February 14, 2014, 22:23 GMT

    I'm still not convinced that Ishant is not the right path. The conditions in NZ were bowler friendly to say the least - Especially in the first innings of the current Test. Ishant is bowling mainly in the high 120's. Most fast bowlers around the world do not operate at that pace - why?? Also, why drop pace - laziness??

  • Nampally on February 14, 2014, 19:50 GMT

    @Jose Pulliampatta: You are right ON, Jose! Many Indian fans incl. myself, have been critical of playing a Test match with just 3 specialist bowlers which includes 35 year old ZAK. So literally the 2 pacers -Shami & Ishant - took 10 wkts. between them. India has in this squad Kumar who can swing the ball like a top & accurately too. He would have run thru' this NZ batting like a "Hot knife thru' Butter"! But India's wonderful Captain lacks any logic & understanding in team selection. 7 batsmen + an all rounder = 8 batsmen in XI. If you have any understanding of physical fitness & injury possibilities, a Sane Captain Never plays a 5 day Test match with such an unbalanced XI. Dhoni is playing with fire & I keep my fingers cross none of the bowlers is injured. This is a matter for the Selectors to take it seriously. No Wonder Indian overseas record is 0-10 in Tests. Bowlers are so discouraged by Dhoni's XI, that Leg spinners are extinct + Fast bowlers will soon be -with Aaron & Yadev OUT.

  • thozar on February 14, 2014, 19:44 GMT

    @bismoy, yeah right, the same Mitchell Johnson who was deemed useless till the India ODIs late last year. If you remember Mitchell averaged 30+ till the Ashes and since then he has been very impressive, have to admit. I thought Mitchell made merry taking some cheap English wickets but he has also performed well against the strong SA batting line-up, so well done. But, he is near the end of his career while Ishant is only 25. What many people fail to realize is that Ishant is also very fit and does not break down like some Oz bowlers. It is still early to predict that Ishant will continue his fine form but if he continues to bowl like this, there is no better bowler and opposition batsmen would be praying that he loses form/fitness.

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