Monday, January 3, 2011
The potential of Ishant Sharma
Ishant Sharma is 6 feet 4 inches tall, almost the same height as Morne Morkel. He used to bowl in a similar manner, a nagging back of the length delivery which would jag back off the seam at an uncomfortable and awkward height. That is the same style of bowling which famously had Ricky Ponting hopping around like a bunny back in 2008 on Ishant's maiden tour down under. He somewhere down the line lost that style of bowling, maybe it was due to frequent injury, maybe it was a drop in pace, maybe it was t20 cricket, who knows. But one thing is for sure, his bowling for the last year and some change, hasn't been looking particularly pleasing. The potential is immense, as was on full display where he took out Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in an inspired bowling spell at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, but he has been erratic at best.
The reason why MS Dhoni and Co. seem to be committed to Ishant and seem to be giving him an extended run in the Indian side, where many a bowler may have been dropped by now, is the claim that Ishant is one of the most hard working and earnest players in the team. His down to earth attitude and earnestness seems to have endeared him to many members in the Indian squad, and was on display in the one chance encounter I have had with him.
Sometime back in March 2008, I was going back to college in Bangalore after completing an internship in Delhi, I had just been cleared through security check at the domestic departure terminal of the Delhi airport, when I spotted this tall gangly fellow sitting in a corner listening to music on his i-pod. People were pointing at him, and a few went up and asked him to pose for a picture. Well I decided to do so as well:
Anyhow, after obliging me and posing for yet another photo, he politely tried to put his earphones back in, so that he could listen to music in peace for a while before the next cricket crazy loon comes and asks for an autograph and/or a snap. But no, I wasn't going to let him that moment of peace, and would go on to say "Dude, you really bowled well in Australia, really nailed Ponting, killer". He sheepishly muttered thanks, and I could tell he was hoping that I would now go away and leave him be, but I wasn't having any of that. I then went on to say, "but dude I heard you injured your finger and you won't be playing for a while, can you show me". Now please understand, I wasn't being obnoxious, neither was I giving him the impression that I was a sports doctor, I was plain and simple curious, I always imagined that a cricket injury would have to be monstrous to prevent a guy from playing cricket. Also you don't get such an opportunity to ask a cricketer to show you an injury which is preventing them from playing a match, sometimes they pull their groins, you can't then say "show me" and don't even get me started on Shoaibh Akhtar's unmentionable injuries. Anyway, I think I got sidetracked somewhere, yes back to Ishant. He then proceeded to show me his finger (index only), after a quick look and not being too impressed I was on the verge off saying "man, that's nothing, you guys are such babies"; when better sense prevailed and I simply said, "dude that's nasty, you take care of that" and happily walked away.
The purpose of the above ramble was to prove that if Ishant can show the utmost patience in dealing with a cricket nut like me, making the most bizarre requests like show me your finger, he should display some of that earnestness and patience on the field, where he definitely has the talent and the potential to bowl well, he just has to be patient, maintain his line, length, pace and his belief. If he does so, I have no doubt that he will emerge as the perfect foil for Zaheer Khan and India will finally have something that will aid them, especially on foreign tours, in maintaining their No. 1 ranking, a potent opening pace attack. All No. 1 teams have had it, and India desperately need it. He has displayed some form during the latter part of the second test and now on the first day of the third test. Here's to hoping that 2011 is a good year for him, and if it is, India will have taken a small but crucial step in their consolidation of the No. 1 test spot.