Ishant Sharma 2.0

After an ankle surgery, the lanky pacer is taking baby steps towards his comeback.

For Ishant Sharma, this forced break couldn’t have come at a better time. It meant that he’d be watching his franchise play the IPL from either the National Cricket Academy or his home, located in the little vicinage of South Patel Nagar in the heart of West Delhi. He doesn’t regret it though, as the time-off from the rigours of bowling has given way to an ardent stint in introspection and study about his recent performances with the national team. The good news, however, is that Ishant, midway through his post-surgery rehabilitation has started bowling, albeit off six steps and if all goes well, is scheduled to put himself up for contention when England turn visitors this winter.

“I am not quite missing the IPL, because for me playing for the country comes first. If this injury break can help me come back better for India, I think it is worth it,” Ishant says rather assuredly when asked about this break. He adds, “I’ll take my time and ease myself into cricket. Last time, I didn’t rush myself, but this time I had two surgeries on my ankle.”

The first of which was a rather bizarre revelation, that of an extra bone in the ankle, which went unnoticed by the medical staff till the England tour, “I really didn’t know I had an extra bone in my ankle,” quips Ishant. The second of those surgeries was to tighten the ligaments up and add more flesh. “I had this ankle problem since three years and I have been playing simply because I didn’t feel the injury. I thought to myself that if I went for surgery before the Australia tour, I’d miss the series and it was a big series for me personally, like any other Indian fast bowler. It was paining in Australia, but I thought all along that it was only a niggle,” he says.

Press him further on the Australia tour, and the “unlucky” tag he subsequently acquired after decent, fruitless spells Down Under, and he reckons he was genuinely unlucky, in stark contrast to the public and media perception back home. “The way I felt about my bowling in Australia, I thought I could have taken more wickets there. I don’t think I need to complain about my bowling. I really felt I was unlucky about the wickets. For the public and the media, it’s all about results (i.e. wickets), but for me, it’s my bowling that really matters, my rhythm and importantly patience — to succeed in Test cricket, you need to be incredibly patient,” he says.

Ishant was quite the sensation in India’s previous tour to Australia, but interestingly, he reckons that he’d bowled much better this time than he did on his maiden tour there. “Believe me,” he pleads, “but I think I bowled much better this time in Australia. I knew more about my bowling, my form, what I could do with the ball, and definitely more experienced having played 40+ Tests.”

From a tactical point of view, one of Ishant’s problems in international cricket has obviously been that reluctance to pitch it up to the batsmen, which unfortunately has meant lesser wickets than he should have had by now. “Undoubtedly, I want to pitch it up and that for me or any international fast bowler is quite the mantra for picking wickets. If you’re playing at that level, and in bowling-friendly conditions, you have to pitch it up. From my side, I have been making a conscious effort to pitch it up and swing it at pace. I would definitely like to bowl a bit fuller, create more chances and take more wickets,” he says.

Another criticism that has come his way off-late is how he’s been reduced to a bowler whose inconsistency is defined by one great spell in a series, and a tapering of fortunes since then. And from a pace bowler’s perspective, that would begin with knowing what your length is. Ishant says his length, is somewhere between short and full, or good length. Hitting that length four to five out of six times would define consistency.

“For me, it’s about consistency and pace. If I keep bowling at good pace with a good rhythm, and keep picking wickets, the consistency will automatically come,” he says. He adds rather modestly, “People keep talking about that spell at Perth, but I really think I did nothing special. I just kept on bowling in great areas. I bowled one more over that day and it helped that he nicked. If I didn’t pick that wicket, would people have spoken of it as a great spell? Sometimes, my role is to build pressure and if the batsman is good enough to see me through, he should be given credit. Good luck to him.”


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