Ishant finds his rhythm
Cricket :Dhoni pleased with pacemanís progress in the one-day series
It was never going to be easy for India in the absence of Zaheer Khan, who for years led the bowling attack.
But as jaded form prompted his exit, India needed a fresh generation of pacers to carry forward the legacy and the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed have offered promise.
But none of it could have been an happier instance than the progress Ishant Sharma has shown in the last few weeks.
He is now the most experienced paceman in Indian ranks, and his spells in the back-to-back one-day series against Pakistan and England justified that tag. While delivering probing spells, mostly coming in as the third seamer, Ishant also provided valuable support to the young names.
Skipper Mahendra Singh raved about Ishant’s performance. “In this particular series against England, he has bowled well. In the first 6-7 overs, he has troubled the batsmen. Last few overs he has gone for runs but we all don’t know as of now as to what is a good number in the last few over with the fielders inside.
“I am happy with his performance, he is a good fielder and he is bowling those five-six overs really well for us. Also there’s the fact that he is bowling one-change with the semi new-ball,” Dhoni said after the Mohali match.
It was a hard-to-imagine scenario a year back. The lanky bowler was sidelined after an ankle surgery, a phase he termed as the worst in his life. Regaining his pace and length were among the challenges but by his own admittance the adversity only strengthened his resolve to come back.
Long hours at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) provided him the strength and rhythm. Even though he was picked for the Test series against New Zealand, he didn’t get a game. But he used the time with the team to work on his variations with bowling
coach Joe Dawes, especially focussing on developing an out-swinger and slower ball.
But as has been the case earlier with Ishant, wickets continued to elude him despite bowling inspired spells once he returned to the Indian fold. The former India bowling coach Eric Simmons once called him the unluckiest bowler and hoped India would not give up on him.
India didn’t and Ishant is finally entering a zone that could decide the course of his career. Against Pakistan, he picked seven wickets at an economy rate of 3.71 and though he did go for runs in first two ODIs against England, he brought down his economy rate to 4.14 and 4.70, taking two wickets each in Ranchi and Mohali. He was at his best in Mohali where he bowled with venom to trouble Kevin Pietersen.
His childhood coach Shravan Kumar felt he has matured as a bowler. “He has made good progress after injury. He has been calm and handled himself quiet well. He is more mature now as a bowler and you can see the confidence in him,” Kumar said. “I would like him to bowl from a bit more closer to the wicket, though."
Ishant needs to take up the responsibility of leading the attack, felt former India bowler Madan Lal. “He is hitting the ball at the right areas. The kind of experience he has, he should have been our No 1 bowler by now. But now he’s a lot matured, and he is moving the ball and getting the important wickets for India.”
With Indian team in transition, the progress of Ishant would be keenly followed.