The role of the host broadcaster has come into sharp focus in the aftermath of the Adelaide Test. Ishant Sharma is now a marked man, and he spent a major part of the nets session a day before the Perth Test trying to get his rhythm right when bowling from well behind the popping crease.
In the final innings in Adelaide, Ishant got close to getting two wickets off no-balls. One of them was given on the field, but Ishant was found to have overstepped on the DRS review. Later, during the final day, the umpire called a rare no-ball on the field when it looked like Ishant had trapped Nathan Lyon plumb in front. However, it was the no-balls that were missed that has put the scanner on Ishant. On air, Ricky Ponting pointed out four no-balls missed in one particular over.
Between the Tests, Daily Telegraph has accessed footage that claims Ishant overstepped 16 times in the first innings alone. The report doesn't mention corresponding figures for any other bowler, from India or Australia. Ishant, though, was the only bowler called for overstepping in the Adelaide Test, five times in all, on replay or not. During a particularly intense nets session two days before the Adelaide Test, it was observed neither side was too strict on policing no-balls in the nets.
The end result is Ishant working on his run-up to make sure he doesn't overstep. Experts feel it can't be easy to do that in one training session, but that is something that just has to be done. And it didn't take the discovery of uncalled no-balls for Ishant to think seriously about the problem. Even when India won the first Test, captain Virat Kohli said Ishant was the only one not celebrating.
"We were all celebrating but he was really really angry with himself and we asked him why and he said, 'I cannot afford to bowl a no-ball being a senior guy and having played so much cricket'," Kohli said after the Adelaide Test. "That could have been the difference at a more important stage in the series. Guys take ownership of those things but they can commit mistakes. As long as the attitude is right, we look to correct those mistakes. So this incident that has happened, I am sure Ishant is going to be obsessed about not doing it again."
Ishant spent time with B Arun, the bowling coach, standing as the umpire trying to maintain the same rhythm, energy and intensity with a new run-up. He bowled in a net without a batsman and at a single stump. Every time he landed well behind the popping crease. Arun kept a close eye on how well he was bowling. He seemed happy with what he saw, and the stint ended with Ishant high-fiving Arun.
"He himself was very keen to rectify it, so I don't think it was something that needed to be spoken about again and again," an impressed Kohli said on the eve of the Perth Test. "He is a responsible cricketer, and he has been around for so long and he understands what needs to be corrected as all of us do in the team. So there is no need to repeat it again. He knows the problem, and he is keen to rectify it in this game."
The pressure will be on for both the on-field umpires and Ishant, but if he has successfully rectified the problem it might save both the trouble.
Meanwhile, Australia captain Tim Paine was glad the issue had been raised. "It's not something that we can control," Paine said. "Having said that, I am glad that it has been brought up and it has certainly been spoken about. I don't think it is a great look for the game when things like that are happening. You put your trust in the people who are in those jobs to control it and hopefully they police it really well in this game.
"I spoke to them [the umpires] during one of the days really quickly because I was watching the telecast in the change-room, just to get an idea of whether they were communicating to the umpires in the middle which they said they were. What I do know is that it is not an easy job. They are standing two or three metres away and the guys are running in fast and it all happens so quickly. So I think as long as we are aware of it and we are looking at solutions that can help that process, then I am all for it but I hope this Test match it is used a little better."