SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30: Ishant Sharma of India successfully appeals for the wicket of England captain Joe Root during the Specsavers 4th Test match between England and India at The Ageas Bowl on August 30, 2018 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Ishant Sharma: Version 2.0

When you look at Ishant Sharma, it seems like he has been playing for ages and yet he is just 29 years old. He has played for more than 11 years now and a lot of people (and experts) feel he should’ve taken a lot more wickets than he has and that he should be spearheading the Indian attack. For an 85-Test veteran, 251 Test wickets is not something you can be proud of. On 30th August when this tall, lanky pacer from Delhi dismissed Joe Root and became the 3rd Indian seamer to pick up 250 Test scalps, he was the slowest to do so and the second slowest in Test history.

Ishant first donned the India colours in a Test match in Bangladesh in 2007. It’s more than a decade since he made his debut and it finally looks like he is the bowler India wanted him to be. The way he has bowled in the last couple of years has been simply brilliant. In the last couple of years, he has taken 42 wickets at an average of 26.38, out of which 33 have come in the last one year. He’s not gone wicketless in the last 7 Tests he’s played this year and he is bowling better than ever.

No one can forget Ishant Sharma’s famous spell to Ricky Ponting in 2008. The way he made the former Australian skipper hop and jump, bowling close to 90 miles per hour was a treat to watch for any cricket fan. However, Ishant didn’t live up to that initial promise and hype.
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He has long been a workhorse for India in Test cricket, bowling tirelessly, hitting the deck hard, showing good discipline and holding one end up to dry up the runs and create pressure. However, there have also been instances where Ishant comes in and blows away oppositions. Bridgetown in June 2011 (6/55), Wellington in February 2014 (6/51), Lord’s in July 2014 (7/74). He had these bursts but more often than not he was India’s container where he largely stemmed the flow of runs, he would bowl well and not have wickets to show.

In an interview with BCCI.tv, he revealed that it’s high time he starts picking up wickets. He doesn’t want people to come up to him and say ‘well bowled, but tough luck’.

“The process always remains the same. You have to focus on where you have to bowl and how to execute your plans. At the end of the day, when it works out, then you feel satisfied and happy. It is important to take up responsibility when you are a senior bowler,”

Ishant had said after the first Test.

It’s only in the last couple of years, Ishant Sharma has changed and the way his mindset has changed. He has adapted to different conditions really well. The Delhi pacer used to take quite some time between balls, walk back slowly, stand at the top of his mark and think about the ball he bowled and all those things which did affect his rhythm.

The County stint he had with Sussex earlier this year, has helped him come a long way. Working with Jason Gillespie at Sussex, he overcame his bad habits and get better.

“I would keep telling him to show urgency. In county cricket, you had to bowl 96 overs in a day. So first of all, I had to sort it out in that respect. Secondly, it meant he wasn’t wasting his time thinking about irrelevant stuff,”

Gillespie had said in an interview.

During his County stint, Ishant worked really hard on improving his lengths and pitching the ball up. Hitting back of a length came naturally to him, but he adjusted well. The change was evident right from the historic Test match against Afghanistan in Bengaluru where he kept pitching the ball up.

Then came the England series. He has been spearheading the attack in England, giving some decent advice to other bowlers. It is his third trip to England in the span of 7 years and he will know conditions better than any Indian player in that dressing room. He is currently using all his experience and delivering for India on a consistent basis.

In the first Test, he took his 8th Test fifer when he rattled the England top and middle-order. He has continued his impressive form and has looked one of the most threatening bowlers from either side. He has constantly threatened the edge and troubled the England batsmen, especially left-handers. Not that he hasn’t bowled well or hasn’t been effective against right-handers, but left-handers, in particrular, have been in trouble as Ishant Sharma has been generating some good away-swing and that has constantly threatened the edge. He mixed it up well as well, surprising them with an odd indipper.
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With 13 wickets so far in the series, Ishant hasn’t created headlines and hogged away all the limelight. But the way he’s been bowling and leading this Indian attack has been fantastic. The way he was constantly having a chat with Hardik Pandya during the Trent Bridge Test and the way he’s lead the bowler’s group in the practice sessions has been remarkable.

The transformation in Ishant Sharma has been excellent and India will be very pleased with the way he has transformed himself into a bowler that India wanted him to be. Ishant Sharma, the strike bowler, the giant killer and the spearhead. This is Ishant Sharma, Version 2.0, a bowler that India had dreamt he would become. Yes, it’s come a few years late, but better late than never. Ishant is just 29 and he can lead this Indian pace attack for quite a few years like he’s done in England.

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