Big test beckons paceman Ishant

Huge chance for Delhi lad to prove his worth

Big test beckons paceman Ishant

The absence of Zaheer Khan and the doubts surrounding Munaf Patel’s fitness have made Ishant the lynchpin of Indian attack ahead of the first Test against the West Indies, and perhaps for the entire tour.

It’s going to be a test of Ishant’s skill, temperament and above all his fitness. It might be a strange situation for the Delhi lad to assume the mantle of the spearhead after being sidelined for a long time. But this is also a chance for atonement for Ishant, to make up for all that time wasted after his Perth high.

After that series against Australia, Ishant was the prince in waiting, a worthy successor to Zaheer. But inexplicably, things went so horribly wrong for the Delhi lad since then that he wasn’t even given the role of a sidekick, spending time largely attending to his niggles and sharpening various aspects of his craft.

Gary Kasparov, the great chess Grandmaster, has said in his famed work, The Bobby Fischer Defense, that hard work is an innate talent, and credit should be given to the Delhi lad for keep on trying despite setbacks of various nature and proportion.

The first hints of improvement came in IPL IV when Ishant produced some searing spells that at times put to shade even a supreme pacer like Dale Steyn. His effort left Deccan Chargers coach Darren Lehmann a chuffed man, and the Australian said Ishant will touch the expected heights sooner than later.

“The way he bowled in the IPL, especially in the second half, is a signal of him getting back to his best. The rhythm he showed was very promising. The time he spent with Steyn, I think, was really helpful for him that taught him a lot, things like wrist position, focusing on the batsmen and keep working hard to polish his skills. I am sure he’s on the right curve,” Lehmann said.

Performing well as one of the bowlers in the side and shouldering the team’s attack demand totally different approaches. As an individual, a bowler needs to think only about his bowling, but as the leader of the pack, a bowler needs to shoulder more responsibilities, and keep an eye on the bowlers around you, a job that Zaheer does brilliantly. Admittedly, Ishant will not have to bear as much responsibility as Zaheer as he can seek guidance from Harbhajan Singh, a veteran of many battles.

India’s bowling coach Eric Simons said Ishant had the ability to assume the lead role. “Ultimately, it’s all about your belief -- whether you can do something or not. I think Ishant has the belief to do the work. You just don’t need to complicate things thinking of the responsibility, and he has to keep doing what he has been doing – working hard on fitness, working on areas that he thinks need a lift. It’s all about concentrating on the basics without compromising on the intent,” Simons said.

It might be a blessing for Ishant that the first Test will be played at Sabina Park, a bouncy surface according to Rahul Dravid and one that suits Ishant’s strength.  “It’s generally got good bounce from my experience. All said and done, the wickets are going to suit them, and their attack’s going to be quite a handful. If they are to prepare a wicket that is good for fast bowling, then we have got some quick guys who can make a difference,” said Dravid. Ishant too will be keen to make a difference to his team and to his own fortunes.

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