West Indies v India, 2nd Test, Bridgetown, 3rd day June 30, 2011

Ishant cherishes success after gloom


It's easy to forget Ishant Sharma is just 22. He's had so many ups and downs already. He's experienced not just dips in form but long, barren stretches of gloom. On Thursday, he grabbed his 100th Test wicket in his 32nd Test, statistics that surprised some, including himself. "In the last one-and-a-half years I have been struggling with my bowling," Ishant said. "When I started to play cricket, I didn't expect to be the fifth-youngest bowler to take 100 wickets."

Ishant's decline from the heights of that spell against Ricky Ponting in Perth is well known. He never had a smooth follow-through to start with, and then began to stutter even further. That was just the beginning of the nightmare. The release gradually turned awry. The wrist that was so firmly behind the seam was finding its way into awkward positions. While at his best, his lithe fingers whipped the ball on to the deck. In his decline, he merely floated the ball across. The left shoulder fell away alarmingly. The head was no longer still. Ishant's life as a bowler was falling apart in front of his eyes.

"Everyone told me there will be ups and downs in any sportsman's life," Ishant said. "I have age on my side. I just had to work on my bowling and my fitness. That's what I did. Us time sabse jyaada difficulty tha ki koi kuch nahi poochta hai; aap kahan pey ho, kya kar rahe ho. (No one was asking about you: what are you doing, where are you?) My family's support was really helpful at the time."

Ishant admitted he hadn't been listening to his mentors, including Zaheer Khan. "I'd like to thank Zaheer for [his advice on] fitness. He always used to tell me about fitness but I didn't take him seriously because I didn't think fitness was that important. Now I have realised it is. If you want to be a fast bowler, you've got to be fit."

Why did he lose his pace? Ishant didn't elaborate, and the press conference didn't offer enough time for probing, but he said he "maybe tried to copy someone else," but added, "now I have learned that whatever is my strength, I should stick to it. And be fit."

Ishant also showed signs of maturity when bowling during his six-wicket haul, a departure from the times when the aim was to just bowl quick. His duel with Ramnaresh Sarwan offered sufficient proof. Ishant kept pushing Sarwan back with his short-of-length deliveries before getting one to pitch fuller and cut in and trap him in front.

"Now, I think more," he said. "I have plans against each batsman; where and what you should bowl at different batsmen. I don't know what was going wrong at that time. Now I am looking to go out there and follow whatever plans we have - visualise and think about what you are going to bowl."

Ishant also had problems bowling different lengths in ODIs. "You have to be clever when you are bowling in Powerplays and in the slog overs. I wasn't that clever before. Now I am learning [about] my bowling and body. I hope I will come back into ODI side and bowl well whenever my team needs me."

Ishant has had to lead the pace attack in the absence of Zaheer and Munaf Patel, a role he has taken a liking to. "I am enjoying the responsibility. MS bhai [Dhoni] has given me the fields I want. I talk to Harbhajan [Singh] about all my field plans and what I am going to bowl at each batsman."

Only time will tell whether Ishant is back to his best, but he said he is readier than ever, mentally and physically. "I learnt during this IPL that jo aap ho aapko vahi karna hai (you should stick to your strengths). I learnt how to recover from tiredness. You travel a lot during the IPL and I learnt more about my body and the importance of training."

It's slightly surprising that he learnt all that in his fourth IPL, but then sometimes you forget he is just 22.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on July 4, 2011, 1:43 GMT

    @ KAIRAVA - sorry to say you have NOT been watching cricket much over the last 2 years. India's strength has been their batting. If their bowling was as good as you say - they wouldn't have only beaten NZ once in their recent encounter. The fact is Zaheer has established himself as being in the top 4 pace bowlers in the world. Sreesanth & Sharma (I rate Sharma highly), have under performed more often then not. H Singh has basically been playing as an allrounder - as his spin bowling has been very underwhelming. Zaheer carries the WHOLE Indian attack - if Sharma, Sreesanth & Kumar come to the party & Singh remembers to spin the ball - India will be a much tougher proposition. There are about 15 current fast bowlers between England, Sth Africa & Oz who are statistically better then your ENTIRE pace attack.

  • Subba on July 1, 2011, 18:11 GMT

    I am happy for Ishant Sharma. He has all the potential to be India's premier strike bowler for a long time. But he needs to be rotated and conserved well so that he doesnt lose pace and retains the freshness and zeal for the game. Incidentally I noticed that Rahul Dravid is now less than 100 runs away from Ponting's aggregate in tests. A century in the next match and would be No. 2 right behind Sachin.Thereafter the battle will be really for Ponting to try and keep ahead of Dravid and watch for Jacques Kallis who's catching up too ! No guesses for those who pick Nos. 1,2, & 3 in Test runs after a year!

  • Naveen on July 1, 2011, 17:52 GMT

    @Bollo - Tremllet is a body line bowler and he has not bowled in sub-continent conditions and only in bouncy places. So you need to wait and see how he performs when he attacks stumps(rather than batsman...which is negative bowling) and in dry and testing conditions where a bowler doesnt have advantage.

  • PATTABIRAMAN on July 1, 2011, 17:36 GMT

    >yavaid I did set the world on fire.But that is not relevant.What is relevant here that BCCI and some of us who care for Indian cricket must start thinking differently.The full potential of every player can be realized only with external support.And the BCCI has unlimited resources to provide this by hiring professionals who can provide this support on an ongoing basis.

  • Binoj on July 1, 2011, 16:42 GMT

    @Bollo Yeah Bollo, average of a seamer bowling all the 9 tests in the seamer friendly tracts of England and Austraila is compared with a seamer who has bowled more in subcontinent pitches. Fair enough. Keep the good work.

  • Dave on July 1, 2011, 16:22 GMT

    @mathewjohn2176. No, Sharma has only played 14 of his 34 tests in India. Yes,he`s still young, can improve, and already at his best is an excellent bowler...but his record is average, and at present, is no Tremlett.

  • Dave on July 1, 2011, 16:19 GMT

    Guys, you`re welcome to your own opinions, but not your facts. Yes, Tremlett is yet to be tested in many places. Sharma`s bowling average of 60 in Aus and 50 in SAf (homes of fast bowling, he`s yet to bowl in England) suggests that at the very least Tremlett has mastered the conditions there somewhat better.

    @Kairava, no comment on PK and Anderson then.

    re. Khan `excelling`on wickets outside India - he averges 34 at home, 30 away, averages 32 all up, hardly world class figures. Nor is Sharma`s away average - in the high 30s.

    Both good bowlers, particularly Zaheer, but hardly the world conquerors you`re making them out to be.

  • Dummy4 on July 1, 2011, 15:58 GMT

    "He[Zaheer] always used to tell me about fitness but I didn't take him seriously because I didn't think fitness was that important. Now I have realized it is. If you want to be a fast bowler, you've got to be fit."

    What a Moron. He wants to play cricket at this highest level and does not think that fitness is the prime necessity?

  • Kairavan on July 1, 2011, 14:59 GMT

    @Bollo - Tremlett has only bowled in Aus & Eng which have favorable piches and conditions for fast bowlers. Wait till he gets to play in batsman's paradise of India & Sri Lanka where 600+ scores are the order of the day in test cricket. Ishant Sharma is not yet 23 but has superbly in India having a highly respectable bowling average of 28.3 & in the process picked up 46 wickets in 13 matches so far. In comparison, England's best fast bowler of the 1st decade of the 21st century, Andrew Flintoff averaged 30.45 in India (matches played 8, wkts taken - 24), Australia's best fast bowler currently, Mitchell Johnson (who was also the highest wicket taker for Aussies in the last Ashes 2010) averages 37.2 runs per wicket (Matches - 6, Wkts- 21) and surprisingly India's best fast bowler Zaheer Khan averages a comparatively high 34.42 runs per wkt. Zaheer Khan has excelled on wickets outside India (which has earned him world wide respect) & now Ishant Sharma is starting to do the same.

  • Naveen on July 1, 2011, 14:57 GMT

    @gitapat - > BCCI has nothing to do with Bowlers/batters realising who and what they are. They might be in Inidan Team because of sheer talent...that doesnt mean that they have understood them or their body or the game.

    Students learn only what they can...capacity varies for everyone...for instance did you top your class everytime and have you set the world on fire? There might have been somebody who studied along with you would have done that. Despite you having same teachers and evironment.

    Realisation happens for some at very young age..case in point Tendulkar and pretty late for others which is most of cricketers.

    WHY bring BCCI unnecessarily into this.

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