After Indian pacer Ishant Sharma trapped English batsman Daniel Lawrence in front of the wicket, his expression said it all. With Lawrence’s dismissal, the 32-year-old lanky fast bowler from Delhi entered the 300 club making him the only third Indian pacer behind Kapil Dev and Zaheer Khan and the sixth Indian bowler overall to do so.
His teammate Ravichandran Ashwin had high praises from Ishant’s work ethic and his effort to take wickets. “Look, Ishant has been one of the most hard-working cricketers that I have seen in that Indian team dressing room,” Ashwin said in an interview after Day 4 of the first Test between England and India. Ashwin added that he would love to watch Ishant reach 400 and 500 wicket milestone and set a benchmark for younger bowlers coming up the ranks.
There is no arguing with Ashwin’s statement as in Tests, Ishant is currently the most capped player in this Indian side after debuting against Bangladesh in 2007. He has been through several injuries, fitness issues and struggled with consistency in the last 14-years. Despite these setbacks and several young Indian bowlers debuting over the years, Ishant did not give and continues to work day in and day out.
With years of experience behind him, Ishant is India’s go-to man in Tests. Players and team selectors know his value to this Indian side. In the past three years, we have seen a different Ishant Sharma emerge. In 2017, after going unsold in the Indian Premier League to being named replacement and ending the season wicketless, Ishant was not favoured as a limited-overs bowler as younger bowlers began popping up.
Ishant decided to go west to improve his skills and with the County season still on, Sussex signed him. Within a no time, the Delhi pacer started taking wickets in County cricket and, his Test average began improving. Ishant continues to credit former Sussex coach Jason Gillespie for his turnaround. Gillespie worked on Ishant’s bowling and was highly impressed by his ‘thirst for knowledge’.
“It was down to his attitude and mindset, and his openness to learn and try different things,” Gillespie said in an interview praising the Delhi pacer. “It was down to Ishant. He did wonderfully well,” Gillespie added. There is no denying that Gillespie has played a pivotal role in Ishant’s resurgence.
Ishant still has a few years left in his tank. As Ishant is only playing Tests for India at the moment, he could take a page out of English veteran pacer James Anderson’s book and concentrate only on the highest format of the game. It will give him more time to rest from injuries and wear and tear, thus, increasing his cricketing longevity. But as Gillespie said, “It was all down to Ishant.”