Ishant Sharma, who has often been criticised for not taking enough wickets despite his experience, has said his labours go unappreciated outside the dressing room. Ishant took 7 for 74 with a bouncer barrage to win the Lord's Test for India, but said that had the wickets not come, people would not have noticed the effort that went into bowling all the short deliveries.
"No one has given me as much in life as cricket has. When I go out on the cricket field, I give all that I have, every time," Ishant told bcci.tv. "Sometimes, I feel like my efforts are never appreciated by people other than my team-mates. Because I got all these wickets, people are praising me. But had I gone for runs, had the plan failed, no one would have appreciated the fact that I was continuously bowling bouncers with an 80-plus overs old ball.
"It has always been like that with me and now I am pretty used to it. I am experienced enough to ensure that I don't get affected by what XYZ is saying about me. I know that my mates have the belief in me and they appreciate what I do for the team. That's enough for me to carry on. I will continue to give myself fully each time I step on the field to play for my country."
Ishant had Moeen Ali fending the last ball before lunch to short leg. After the break, he had Matt Prior, Ben Stokes and Joe Root falling to pull shots, before having Stuart Broad gloving a short ball to the wicketkeeper. Ishant said that coach Duncan Fletcher felt he should bowl more bouncers, and that he had done so under instructions from captain MS Dhoni.
"In my first spell of five overs, the batsmen go beaten quite a few times and the ball moved as well. So I thought the ball would still be reversing, which didn't happen. That's when MS bhai told me that since the ball has become really soft, let's try something new.
"He said let's open up the whole field and bowl only bouncers. This is the last over (before lunch) and you never know what could happen. The plan worked and we decided to continue with it after lunch. We persisted with the old ball because with the new ball the batsman can judge the bounce with ease, while with the old one he cannot gauge the bounce as some might take off and an odd one will keep low. I feel all the wickets I got today should go to MS bhai because he planned them and set the field for them.
"Duncan keeps telling me, 'bowl more bouncers, bowl more bouncers'. But when you go in with a plan, sometimes it works and at times it doesn't. Things happen suddenly. Today I got to learn that if you keep trying persistently with the short-ball ploy on a flat wicket with nothing in it for you, you can get rewards you never expected."
England kept pulling themselves out of the contest but Ishant said with the variable bounce in the surface, they had few options. "The wicket had slowed down considerably over the five days and because of the footmarks there was a lot of variable bounce. It was very difficult for the batsmen to leave the bouncers; they had to play it and they had to go for the pull or hook."
In the 2011 Test at Lord's between the two sides, Ishant had gone wicketless in the first innings before taking four in the second. He said he knew from the experience that wickets could come in a bunch on the ground. "Last time when I picked four wickets at Lord's, I remember I was bowling very well in the first session but didn't get any wickets. When I came back on, I got four wickets in no time. It was on my mind today. I knew that on this ground the wickets come in bulk. So I knew that if I stuck to my ploy patiently, I will get the rewards. I told the same to (Mohammed) Shami and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) as well, so that they keep the belief and don't give up."
Shami and Bhuvneshwar have played eight Tests each compared to Ishant's 57, and he said that he shared his experiences with them on the ground. "When I am on the field, I talk to the other pacers and mainly share my experience in a similar situation. If you want to pick 20 wickets as a team, it is of paramount importance that the bowlers communicate with each other constantly. I just tell them things like how the wicket generally plays and what the particular batsman generally does. I do try to be the leader on the field because I have played more matches than them. But once we're off it, I am not a senior player because we all are almost of the same age. So, there is a dual aspect to that role."