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

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

Abhishek Purohit in Wellington

February 14, 2014

Comments: 40 | Text size: A | A
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.

Ishant Sharma runs in with the sight-screen in the background, New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Wellington, February 14, 2014
Will we see more of the good Ishant Sharma from now on? © Getty Images

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by 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)

Posted by 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

Posted by 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?

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 3:41 GMT)

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

Posted by   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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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??

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by thozar on (February 14, 2014, 19:38 GMT)

@Jose Puliampatta, good point but I would like Zak to continue at least until the end of the Aussie tour. I think he still has more to offer as a bowler. This test is a win, guaranteed. I expect India to score at least 400 in our 1st innings and then scoreboard pressure will take care of the NZ batsmen in the 2nd innings. For the England tour, we need a spinner (either Ashwin or Jadeja) but I will keep our 3 incumbent pacemen. Against England who are a shambles now, you don't need 4 pacemen. Against Australia who are in good form, we may need 4 pacemen plus Jadeja.

Posted by thozar on (February 14, 2014, 19:35 GMT)

Ishant has got a second wind and hopefully this will continue for a long time. To be fair, he deserved the criticism he got because he was so inconsistent. But, what many critics tend to forget is he is only 25 and has a long career ahead of him. He already has 150+ wickets and has experience bowling in all parts of the world. That will stand him in good stead. He has all the attributes needed for a good fast bowler - he is tall and gets good bounce and bowls good pace. The only thing lacking was the accuracy and he seems to be getting better at it. If he continues this vein of form, then watch him tear apart the hapless English batting later this summer and give the Aussies so much trouble later in the year. Ishant getting into his groove is a good sign for Indian fans. For long, pace attack was India's bane. Now, suddenly we have 3 high quality pacemen. If they continue this form, then it won't be long before India reaches the top of the summit what with SA showing signs of waning.

Posted by CurrentPresident on (February 14, 2014, 19:25 GMT)

With proper support from the captain and some guidance, Indian bowlers can do well on helpful pitches like the ones in NZ.

But if they start worrying about the captain would get mad at them for giving away a four or a six and start to bowl a defensive line then they will fall apart the moment going gets tough. This is where the captain (or the bowling captain) needs to step in, assure them of the support, give them a few tips and help keep their intensity up.

There is not too much separation in talent, at this level, the main difference in performance comes out of mental strength and attitude.

Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 18:53 GMT)

The Good, the bad and the Ugly.. We have two Sharmas, Ishanth Sharma and Rohhit Sharma.. when there are good, they are too good. when they are bad, they are too bad.. and when they are ugly.. we cannot even tolerate. Both are talented and gifted. but both of them are inconsistent. Rohit Sharma has somehow got his place in both test and ODI.. thanks to his recent performance and the vacancy created by Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar.. I want to see more Ishanth Sharma in coming days. He is very gifted (I remember his famous bowling performance against Ricky in 2008).. Today I just noticed Morne Morkel's average and I wonder how he was bowling along with Styne and Philander. If Ishanth Sharma improves his effort and continue these kind of performance, then he easily better the average Monre Morkal.

Posted by cricpov on (February 14, 2014, 18:40 GMT)

Ishant bowled well, fine. But we just don't know what Umesh and Varun would have done on this track if they had gotten a chance to bowl.

Which fast bowler would not have liked to bowl on this green top on day 1. I believe lot of great avatars would have stepped up if given a chance.

Zaheer can be discounted because he does not seem to have it in him anymore. Shami bowled brilliantly too without much early luck.

Posted by cricket-is-passion on (February 14, 2014, 18:30 GMT)

@sk123: I agree with your statement on Mitch playing IPL. IPL is very fast paced and few edges can demolish the confidence and especially on Subcontinent Soil.

Posted by rayfanatics on (February 14, 2014, 18:27 GMT)

Some troll here keeps on posting about Pujara's "apparent" weakness on all India articles. He should keep his mind that his country's batsmen can't even average in the 40s against good bowling. Ishant has a "one-length for all pitches" problem. Even in ODIs he dishes out this short of good length which is picked high and mighty by good batsmen. Not yet convinced but hopefully for India, this is the beginning of a consistent bowler.

Posted by getgopi on (February 14, 2014, 18:17 GMT)

@sk123 : I thought that it was in IPL 2013 that Mitch really made an impact after several years out of the limelight. He has been in form since.

As for Ishant, it is obvious that he can only bowl well in helpful conditions...that means Test cricket on lively wickets. No point using him in other conditions. As a fast bowler, using him only in helpful conditions will be beneficial to him. With more rest from touring, his pace might increase, his confidence might remain high and he might be hungrier every time he comes out to play.

Posted by electric_waco_WAP4 on (February 14, 2014, 18:16 GMT)

@bismoy...With that logic... " Nobody is a cricketer". When he doesn't bowl well people pile on him and when he does...its green pitch?Green pitch was there for Zak too. People like you who never stepped on a cricket ground (I mean play at least city divison 1 cricket)... sit on couch and play pocket billiards all day should never be allowed comment. He is average test bowler and he bowls good on pitches which assist fast bowlers. BTW did MJ do good on Indian flat pitches? dont remember.

Posted by sk123 on (February 14, 2014, 16:48 GMT)

@bismoy : Mitch will be found out on Indian wickets. They all need a little help from the wicket, including Mitch. He's been extremely impressive, but I'm waiting for him to break down. It'll be great if he stays healthy though. Also, my advice (not that it matters) for Mitch would be not to play IPL, he may lose his new found confidence.

Posted by NP_NY on (February 14, 2014, 16:29 GMT)

Well done Ishant, but consistency is key. You have to repeat this performance in the second innings. And please for God's sake, stop picking your nose whenever the camera focuses on you :).

Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 15:31 GMT)

It is very very difficult to win a 5-day Test Match, with just TWO (repeat: 2) regular bowlers. It was absolutely foolish NOT to include Bhuvi in the playing XI. I would have used a 4-pronged pace attack: Bhuvi, Shami, Ishant ,& Pandey. And would have requested Zak to be available at the boundary line, to guide the youngsters, the way McDermott does.

The selectors (and India's Cricket Administrators) have to decide about Zak. Do they want a "bowler" definitely on the wane. Or, a decent "Bowling Coach" in the making. He, as a coach, can't be worse than the current one. The young bowlers respect Zak. And, to boot, language won't be a problem. That is very important for some of our newly emerging young talents, coming from the mofussil towns!

Posted by bismoy on (February 14, 2014, 15:12 GMT)

Ishant is an average bowler, getting wickets in helpful 1 st day green wicket doesn't count for anything.MJ is the only bowler currently, who can be called the real bowler, who doesn't need pitch, overhead condiion, match day condition to take wicket.Comparing him to ishant the bubble will burst for ishant.

Posted by IndTheBest on (February 14, 2014, 15:11 GMT)

We have two talented SHARMA's in the team who are treat to watch 'when' they are in form but it's very sporadic and rare. Team will benefit only if they are consistent. Well done Ishant on day 1 of Test match 2.

Posted by inswing on (February 14, 2014, 14:55 GMT)

I am generally very anti-Ishant, but he did bowl well this time around. His last 6-wicket haul wasn't actually that impressive, but this one was. This wicket suited his natural length. If he can alter this length to suit the wicket, he could become an above average bowler. Till then, we may just have to contend with one good performance every 20 tests and an average over 40. Hoping for the better.

Posted by Nampally on (February 14, 2014, 14:23 GMT)

Honestly, Ishant gets criticised more for his erratic bowling- always on the short side. Even in this match he bowled lot of short stuff- from his chart of ball location. But on the whole he bowled at the right spots & assisted by some excellent close-in catching reaped rich rewards. Had Williamson not escaped 2 catches- both no balled after action replay- NZ would have been dismissed much earlier. It is the missed catches that lost India the first test & today the catches won the day for them. Not withstanding these positives, Ishant bowled superbly to deserve his 6 for 51. He was far more accurate & on a green pitch it helps. As I mentioned before the match, the green pitch will back fire on NZ & it did! India has better pace bowlers than NZ. Their LH seamers are Wild & are constantly expecting wkts. from ball angling wide outside the off stump from the RH batsmen. If Indian batsmen are disciplined, a 500 total is possible. Only Southee is the Wicket taker because he attacks the wkt.

Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 14:01 GMT)

Ishanth is a match winninning bowler in foreign condition, He is properly worked with bowling coach he definitely away game champion and next year world cup India's Main Fast bowler and same his experience lot of help to indian youth bowlers

Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 13:31 GMT)

World must see that Pujara has got a serious weakness of getting lbw similar to Dravid

Just target his stumps with mid on straight & deepish with 2 short mid wickets employed & leg side dominant field like Aus found out Dravid in latter part of his career

Posted by Leggie on (February 14, 2014, 12:38 GMT)

Feel happy for Ishant. After all the bashing (I guess he would read Cricinfo!), to come back and prove his worth is a phenomenal show of his mental character. His one-day record is poor. Nevertheless, it was always evident that he would be useful in Test matches - especially in bouncier conditions where his height comes into play. For the sake of India, I hope this hungrier version of Ishant turns up for all the Test matches he plays. And I REALLY REALLY hope that selectors keep him completely away from T20s and ODIs. That's the worst that happened to Ishant, and selectors must ensure it does not happen again.

Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 11:09 GMT)

we can conclude that he is good for test cricket oversees condition and selectors should not pick him for odis and t-20.

Posted by bobpeecee on (February 14, 2014, 10:51 GMT)

there we go with the hyperbole. He's still an average bowler and I doubt Ishant can sustain this form. The ball still comes out with a wobbly seam from his hand so he can't sustain this form consistently.

Posted by SportsAce on (February 14, 2014, 10:24 GMT)

For India's sake let's hope Ishant and Shami can be consistent and sensible. I was watching the Star Sports show yesterday on the preview for the Test and Sanjay Manjerekar one of the show's expert was talking about dropping Ishant saying he has got too many chances and has nothign to show. Well the first part might be true but did he not deserve a chance after those 9 wickets in the previous test? Surely a guy like Sanjay should be aware of what is happening in the field of play? The same goes for the other expert Akash Chopra who also seemed oblivious to Ishant's contirbution in the first test and said he was retaining him in his Eleven to give him a last chance!!

God help Indian cricket with experts like these.

Posted by pitch_curator on (February 14, 2014, 10:03 GMT)

I think Ishant's natural length is suited to test matches in bouncier tracks abroad. As simple as that. He neither puts a lot of thinking in his bowling nor does he have enough control to alter his line and length at will. Since the "good length" in test matches is the ideal slogging length in LOI, he gets smashed at the death in ODIs. I hope the selectors do not make the stupid decision of including him in the ODI series based on these performances. Despite these good performances what shocks me is the fact that after so many hundreds of matches at international level, he still does not seem to have a plan at all during bowling. A classic example is the way he bowled to Faulkner in THAT over. No change in length or pace, no yorkers tried, in general no plan at all. You will definitely see this again when he plays for our SRH team in IPL. He will bowl length in slog overs and get murdered through mid wicket and square leg. Wonder what the bowling coach is doing..

Posted by android_user on (February 14, 2014, 9:35 GMT)

every cricketer hits a purple.patch once in his career.... normally that will be between ages.of 27-32 ... ishant May have just hit the purple patch, where whatever you do gets right.... good thing is that he is not in Asia cup and t20 world cup and next test series are in ENG, Asus where bowlers get more help.... hope he carries his form there.... oh in the mean time IPL is there...Will have to wait and see

Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 9:24 GMT)

I like many believe that Ishant can bowl. Ask Ricky Ponting too how good he can bowl. The problem is consistency. And the quantum of error in line and length he does at crucial times occasionally (especially in one-days). More often than not he does it. That's not acceptable from a strike international bowler.

Posted by MAYURESHmagic on (February 14, 2014, 9:17 GMT)

He had great run in West Indies but all went wrong there after. He has to stay down to earth and avoid to become panic in bad phase and he has to adopt the pitch according to the bounce because he can't swing bowl in big way. He is totally dependent on bounce unlike Johnson who can get speed and movement from pitch and air.

Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 9:08 GMT)

With this performance he will in the team for a another 5 years!!! what a comedy???

Posted by CricketMaan on (February 14, 2014, 9:03 GMT)

Its the hunger factor too. dropping him for Asia cup (meaningless tour) and WT20 must have hurt. He prides himself in being called 'senior', 'exiting talent' et all, but has forgotten what took him to get here. Keep him for Tests is the simple mantra. Let him do what Siddle, Harris does for a while, there will be a time when he can play ODIs, for now no need of that. I recollect TA Sekar stating after that ricky ponting spell, 'wrap him safely and preserve' alas no sane person heeded to that call. The same goes to Shami to some extent, yes he need to play ODIs to gain experience, but why not rest him for Asia cup whcih will any way be batters paradise. Why not protect him before the England tour. Alas, we have selectors and captains that start thinking in those lines. Greed is what is killling these good players.

Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 8:34 GMT)

We must not forget that not so long ago, we had one Mitchell Johnson who was bowling similarly - good one day, wayward the next. Can we hope Ishant will mature as Johnson has done? Seeing all the praise for Johnson during the Ashes and the SA series - one forgets he was not even a regular part of the team until a few months ago.

Posted by kohli_is_future on (February 14, 2014, 7:55 GMT)

I'm hoping that he will carry on this form for atleast next Aussie series. a charged up ishant is sight to be hold

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