England vs India 2018: Ishant Sharma - The Unfulfilled Workhorse
In the ongoing Test series between India and England, the one bowler who has stood out from the Indian Camp to bowl unnerving line and length to unsettle the English attack is Ishant Sharma.
In fact, his spell of 5/51 in the first test albeit on bowling friendly conditions was reminiscent of his spell in Perth in 2008 against Australia and the in-form Ricky Pointing. His spell was outwardly but had surprisingly diminishing returns of 2/34 and 1/63.
But such has been his career, he does everything from bowling lovely inswingers that shape away to in-cutters that metaphorically cut the batsman in half. But frustratingly the numbers column has been filling at a pedestrian's pace.
So what is wrong? Why is it preventing him from realizing his potential to grow into a true bowling superstar? Well, for one he was not as consistent as he is now. He also had searing pace up his arsenal, so he could bowl those threatening bouncers which he seems to be losing as he ages.
He still is 29 but 10 years of International Cricket might have taken a toll on him even though sporadic appearances for his country across formats say otherwise. Though an intangible thing but in his control up to a certain extent was that 3 of the 4 highest individual scores made against India in this century were all earlier dropped off Ishant Sharma's bowling. The batsmen in question were Michael Clarke (329*), Brendon McCullum (302) and Alastair Cook (294).
But that has been a luckless and unfortunate past which is steadily changing. Though his magical spells have been few and little in between his career, he has come on top as a formidable workhorse. His exploits as a workhorse have resulted in him not giving away too many runs which work as a catalyst for other bowlers to pick up wickets.
There is a steady change in his line and length which has seen him become the undisputed leader of the pack by snaring 42 scalps in the 8 overseas tests since January 2014 prior to 2nd test match of the series. Out of his 8 five-fors, 7 have come outside India. So not all his doom and gloom in his career and that all started with his ominous 7-74 against England at the home of cricket, Lord's.
Age is still on Ishant's side and he can still produce those match-defining spells out of nowhere. But, he will still need to work on his pace by cranking it up a few miles. He will also have to bowl an equal amount of outswingers as there has been a dearth of it on display by him.
"Being underestimated is the best competitive advantage you can have."-anonymous. This line best sums up Ishant Sharma of the present. While the towering individual may not look imposing, he has for sure carved out a niche for himself that he would like to stick to by bowling long amount of consistent spells.
In fact, it was Ishant's spell today when he took the wicket of Ollie Pope that opened the floodgates for Hardik and rest of the bowlers to crumble England from 75/3 to 161/10. He may not have the metronomic consistency of the likes of McGrath or the searing rockets of Mitchell Johnson but Ishant Sharma does have something special that he comes out with once in a while and makes us wonder, that where was this other different bowler all this time.