Ishant Sharma burst onto the global scene at the age of 18, when the tall lanky Delhi speedster impressed the whole cricketing world in his debut series. It felt like India had finally found the fast bowler it had been craving for years. Ishant had speed, height, control and age – the main ingredients a successful fast bowler needs to possess in world cricket.
His career started off on a positive note Down Under where he troubled almost every Australian batsman on the infamous tour in 2008. India played some wonderful cricket and Ishant proved to be a major reason for their success. They would’ve gone on to win their first tour of Australia, but some controversial umpiring in the Sydney Test stalled that achievement. Nevertheless, India had discovered a gem in Ishant Sharma. Every Indian cricket lover still remembers his spell to the great Ricky Ponting and the famous “Ek aur over karega? Haan karunga!” (Will you bowl another over? Yes, I’ll bowl)” over to the Australian captain. Ponting had no answers to his brilliance and eventually edged the ball to Rahul Dravid in the second slip.
However, things soon started to go downhill for the speedster. Between 2010 and 2017, Ishant featured in 60 Tests and took 172 wickets at an average of 37.22, striking once every 68 deliveries. This wasn’t good enough and he was labelled as ‘Unlucky Ishant’ in the cricketing world. His seam position wasn’t upright and because of his height, he was hitting the short of good length more often than not, something that is not considered as a wicket-taking length in Test cricket. The line of attack was also a concern for the fast bowler. Between 2015 and 2017, Ishant bowled just 47% of his deliveries outside off stump, which is considered as the wicket-taking line in Test cricket.
The advent of Ishant Sharma 2.0
Since the arrival of Jasprit Bumrah in Test cricket, Ishant has excelled and is far superior to the bowler he was in the past. His county stint with Sussex seemed to have been the turning point in his life. County experience in England matured him as a cricketer and helped him get away from the rat race in Indian cricket. It gave Ishant a different perspective and helped him get a better understanding of the line and length required to pick up wickets in Test match cricket.
Since the start of 2018, Ishant averages better than his contemporaries, beating the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult, Stuart Broad and Josh Hazlewood. He has slipped under the radar as all the spotlight has been on Bumrah and Mohammed Shami in recent times, but his strike rate and the average is at par with the duo. Since 2018, he can swing the new ball consistently and can also come one change and dry one end up for his captain. Compared to his high strike rate between 2015 and 2017, since 2018, Ishant has been picking up a wicket every 28 balls, a stat that is absolutely phenomenal. He makes the batsman play a lot more while pitching it on a difficult length to drive and that has helped him pick up the number of wickets he has in this period.
He is second behind the great Anil Kumble in terms of wickets picked outside Asia. Ishant has been a part of 20 wins in overseas Test matches. This stands as the second joint-highest with the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, with only Rahul Dravid having more overseas wins under his belt. He averages 23.50 and strikes once every 46 deliveries, which is 17 less than his career rate.
Ishant Sharma has emerged as the main bowler for captain Virat Kohli and is the leader of the attack for India in Test cricket. He is three matches away from the mammoth 100 Test mark and it’ll be interesting to see how he shapes up in the future.
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