Having already provided glimpses of his immense potential with a wonderful five-wicket haul on a dead Chinnaswamy stadium surface against Pakistan the previous December, his Perth exploits convinced everybody that Ishant was the real deal, unlike a host of fleeting pace bowling sensations of the 80s and 90s.
First in Zaheer Khan’s absence, and then feeding off the senior pro’s presence, the Delhi speedster came to establish himself as a key cog in the bowling wheel, though the wheels have fallen for a little while now, and particularly in limited-overs cricket. There is a certain predictability about his length in one-day cricket that allows batsmen to line him up, an aspect of his bowling Ishant has been working hard on.
Only just coming to terms with not being given the brand new white ball, the 21-year-old is determined to atone for sub-par recent performances at the Champions Trophy, beginning in Centurion on Tuesday,
“I used to think getting the new ball was the ultimate compliment for a fast bowler,” Ishant said on the eve of his team’s practice match against New Zealand. “(Coach Gary) Kirsten and skipper (MS) Dhoni sat me down and explained to me the importance of bowling first change. That was something I had to learn. “They told me that if I wanted to become a complete bowler, I should learn to bowl in every phase.”
That Ishant has started to think more about his bowling, and about the need to keep adding weapons to his armoury, became apparent when he observed, “Early in my career, I never thought bouncer was needed. How wrong I was! I am working towards developing a mean bouncer. Wait and watch,” was his warning to the batsmen.
“I was just 19 when I broke into the national team, wide-eyed and awestruck…,” he continued. “But I can say I’m definitely wiser now.”
Ishant can be seriously quick, and he has no intention, he asserted, of shedding pace to focus on line and length. “Even in Sri Lanka (in the tri-series), I tried to bowl fast. Yes, I erred in length, but I will never compromise on speed. People say I’m a genuine fast bowler, perhaps the first to come out of India. I don’t know how true that is, because we have produced great, great bowlers, but I’m very proud of being tagged ‘fast’. I’m not going to give it up ever.”
As if in explanation, he went on, “Your pace does drop at times. I was bowling around 135 km in Sri Lanka, but if anyone begins calling me fast medium, that would be incorrect. I’m not a swing bowler. I hit the deck and depend on movement off the surface.” Unadvisable, therefore, to shed his strength – searing pace.