Currently the leader of this Indian attack in Test match cricket, Ishant Sharma is a mentor and an inspiration. Standing at the cusp of 300 Test wickets in slowly-approaching 100 Tests, Ishant Sharma portrays the right kind of image for youngsters itching to take up fast bowling. Into his third decade now as a Test pacer, Sharma has been witness to numerous power tussles and changes in the team management and weathered them all.
From Anil Kumble's infamous Perth Test to conquering Australia under Virat Kohli, Sharma has been one constant India has relied upon more often than not. Looking at it from the other side, Sharma has left no stone unturned to keep himself available despite the Test matches being the only international exposure other than the IPL.
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A total of 199 wickets in 60 away Tests in more than 12 years of international cricket speaks volumes about the tall speedster still in his early 30s. However, the role of domestic cricket in Sharma's life can't be and shouldn't be undermined.
The numbers don't reflect the effect they have had on his career. Playing in the domestic arena, on slow and medium-paced tracks, Sharma's long limited number of long spells keeps him in good psychological space to toil hard. Something which he carries over to the internationals. Interestingly, skipper Virat Kohli respects this aspect of Sharma and gives him those extra overs to keep the pressure on from one end. This, in turn, helps the other pacers to chip in and take wickets in short spells, all thanks to Sharma's toil from the other end.
In New Zealand, Sharma has played six matches and taken 28 wickets at an impressive average of 27.82. Decent figures for a bowler who stacks up overs for the sake of the team rather than going for personal milestones. In the past decade, Sharma registered two six-for and a four-wicket haul in single innings in New Zealand. On 6th Feb 2014, Sharma took six for 114 at the Eden Park, following it up with six for 51at the Basin Reserve on 14th Feb 2014 to rattle the Kiwis in their den.
Against SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia) countries in their backyard, Sharma has played a total of 38 matches and taken 122 wickets. Sharma has been able to maintain and steadily improve his performances over the years, turning from a raw attacking bowler to a more organized and mature bowler taking into account the conditions and the situation of the match.
With consistent run-of-play over the years, Sharma has registered himself in elite Indian pacers where he finds himself joint second along-with Zaheer Khan with most five wicket-hauls in Tests.
In another list, Sharma is placed third behind Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble with most fifers for Indian bowlers in away Tests.
The responsibility of spearheading the pace-bowling attack, especially in overseas conditions, has been handled exceptionally well by Ishant Sharma, not because he has been able to take wickets but instead, his ability to stand up to the occasion and contribute in a way the team and the captain needed him to, irrespective of him putting his body on the line during the long tiring spells in Test match cricket.