Chennai: The last time Ishant Sharma played an international game was the Adelaide Test in January. Following an ankle surgery, the lanky pacer returned to the field with the Rest of India in the Irani Cup tie against Rajasthan last month. Three games later, Ishant is keyed up to give England a hostile welcome.
Then, on a pitch not quite suited for fast bowlers, Ishant, representing North Zone, rocked West in the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, using his height to devastating effect and rediscovering swing to scalp four wickets.
The confidence to take on the mighty English is high. "I am fit to take on England. I am raring to go," said Ishant, with a satisfied smile.
Though he was included in the Test side to face the touring Kiwis, he did not start in either of the two games.
A ligament injury on the left ankle had ruled him out of the ODI series in England last August. But the pacer decided to go under the knife only after the Australia tour, thus skipping the lucrative Indian Premier League.
“It was my decision to go for surgery. For a fast bowler, it is very tough to return from injury. The risk of getting injured again is always there. But, then, it is your family and friends who help you get over it,” Ishant told HT.
On his return, he picked up three wickets in the 25 overs he bowled in the game against Rajasthan.
While the first match after the seven-month layoff was just a warm-up, his performance on the flat decks in Rajkot during the Challenger Trophy was impressive, and finally he passed the fitness test by bowling a fierce spell in the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal against the West Zone at Chennai.
Injuries do not just leave behind physical scars; they also create a mental block. But that is not the case with Ishant.
“I don't think about the injury flaring up again. What has to happen will happen. On the field, I will give more than 100%."
“I had a rigorous rehab at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), where I worked out from 10 in the morning till five in the evening… Hard work always bears fruit.”
Ishant says the time spent out with injury was the worst in his playing career. “When I was injured, no one enquired about me, no one was bothered. That was the worst phase of my India career. After going through all this, my determination to succeed has increased.”
His preparations for the England series are in full swing. “India's bowling coach, John Dawes, has taught me how to bowl the out-swinger. I have mastered it and that should make the difference,” said Sharma.