Australia vs India 2018-19: Rejuvenated Ishant Sharma eyeing potential summation
The T20I series between India and Australia fittingly ended in a 1-1 draw, with a game being washed off due to rain. Now, as we head to the Test series between these two sides, players from both teams would be itching to perform and showcase their abilities on the big stage.
The upcoming Test series for many would be an opportunity to rise up for their teams against testing opposition from both sides. However, there is one man who has experienced it all in the past and life would complete a full circle in Australia. This would be Ishant Sharma in his fourth tour to Australia. This tour could well be his last one too, prompting him to take charge on the land where it all began.
Beginning of a promising career
Ishant made his Test debut for India in May 2007 against Bangladesh. With not much of a significant contribution with the ball, he was soon dropped from the Indian side. Any player being in and out of the side, and with fairly limited number of opportunities to make a mark can have their shoulders drop off quickly. But it wasn't to be in his case.
Ishant got another chance during the home series against Pakistan in 2007 when the premier Indian fast bowlers were injured. The lanky seamer produced an impressive performance in the third Test match by grabbing 5 wickets at the Chinnaswamy stadium against the arch-rivals.
His inspiring performance prompting the selectors to get him on board the Australia tour of 2008. With his tall built, selectors believed he could come in handy on the bouncy Australian pitches.
Storming into the limelight at Perth
Ishant was selected in the playing 11 during the second game in Sydney. He bowled well during the match but failed to get much success during the controversy-marred second Test match at the SCG.
Despite his unimpressive wickets column, the team management persisted with him for the third game at Perth. Owing to his ability to consistently clock the 140+ mark and bowling tirelessly long spells, the management believed he could be an asset to the team.
During the 4th morning of the 3rd Test match in Perth, on a moist and swinging 1st session at the WACA, Ishant started to trouble Ricky Ponting with his pace and swing, giving him body blows frequently. He managed to square up the iconic right-hander on a number of occasions during the spell and made life difficult for the Aussie skipper with his dual movement off the pitch.
The spell was so lethal that Ponting ultimately nicked one into the safe hands of Rahul Dravid at first slip, culminating one of the finest fast bowling spells into a well-deserved wicket. It would be one of the highlights of Ishant's career that turned heads across the world as vindication of one of the finest spells in India's Test history.
The unheralded leader of India's pace attack
Ishant has been a part of the Indian team for a decade now and is rapidly inching towards the 100-Test mark. He has rarely hogged the limelight of late, primarily because of the fact that he is not a regular in the limited-overs sides. Among the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the wrist-spinners, he has arguably taken the back-seat by playing the role of an anchor more often than not.
However, the team management knows his worth and have hence have stuck with the tall Delhi fast bowler. He has been tasked with leading India's pace attack in the longest format ever since Zaheer Khan's retirement.
In 87 Test matches thus far, Ishant has picked 256 wickets with a best of 7/74 against England at Lord's in 2014. He has produced some fine bowling spells over the years, with notable performances in England, Sri Lanka and West Indies. Add to that the longevity he has shown as a pace bowler, he surely has turned out an asset to the team.
Potential homecoming of sorts in Australia
Ishant has memorable memories of Australia. It was here wherein the Delhi lad stamped his authority on his first overseas tour in 2008 by prizing out the wickets of Australian legends. With the current tour being his fourth one to Australian shores, he would definitely feel at home in this foreign land.
Being 30 and possessing a lot of experience at Test level, Ishant is going to be the leader of the pack in the Indian bowling line up. He may not top the wicket charts for India. But he is someone whom the team can rely on in times of crisis.
Being the senior-most bowler in the side, he would also be expected to be the bowler's captain, a role Zaheer Khan ably managed during the final few years of his career when he guided India's pace battery of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav.
With age not on his side, Ishant would like to have a final hurrah and have a befitting end to his favourite overseas nation on what could be his last tour to Australia.