Cricket

Why Indian cricket still needs Ishant Sharma

Why Indian cricket still needs Ishant Sharma

This is the era of athletes aging gracefully. Of them delaying the inevitable vagaries of time; of them not stopping the clock, but running beside it; of them coming to terms with their age and finding ways to resist that good night in their athletic middle age.

Last month, Rafael Nadal, with a ravaged 35-year-old body, outlasted a 25-year-old in a grueling five sets for his record 21st Grand Slam title. His great peer Roger Federer, at 40, could still be fueled by the dream of chasing after Nadal. Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo, 37, strikes goals with the taste of a 17-year-old in the toughest football league in the world, just as Jimmy Anderson, who turns 40 this year, hassled batsmen for his having fun last summer.

So 33-year-old Indian playmaker Ishant Sharma, snubbed for the two-Test series against Sri Lanka, needn’t feel old. Or that he would no longer be considered for testing, as is popular perception. His omission is seen in some quarters as the equivalent of handing him the retirement papers. Far from there. Ishant could still be a relevant and, more importantly, vital force in Indian cricket. He just had a few tough matches, there were young fast bowlers waiting to be treated, so he was dropped. A pragmatic decision based on performance and looking to the future.

It should not be misunderstood that Indian cricket no longer needs his services. For all the depth of new speed bowling wealth and resources, India is not a very experienced bowling unit. Mohammed Shami had 57 selections; Umesh Yadav 52 years old and Jasprit Bumrah 27 years old. Among them, Shami and Yadav would be 32 and 35 this year. Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, as impressive as they were, are at the start of their careers. The young crew of Avesh Khan and Prasidh Krishna have not experienced much first class cricket either. An injury or two, poor form, or the need to rotate them, or a big run, and India could trust Ishant with the new ball.

Even though most of them were fit and available, his experience and knowledge could be invaluable. He is a leader, whose presence has sometimes been lacking in South Africa. And of all the bowlers on the team, he seems the most natural person to groom the young brigade, as none of them have seen as much cricketing life as Ishant, countered as much censorship or of ridicule, bad days or out calls, like Ishant. at.

Few players have also transformed as dramatically as Ishant in recent times, perhaps in the world of cricket. From a booming swinger dealer, he added subtle layers to his game to become one of the fiercest bowlers around, a skilled manipulator of length, angles and lines, which has led to a flowering at the end of the career. From 2016 to 2021, in 33 tests, he averaged just 25.3, down from 41 before. It’s an anthology of career lessons for the new generation.

True that he had been half-hearted during the last outings. He was India’s strongest bowler in the opening rounds of the World Test Championship final and penetrating in the Lord’s Test against England. He played in just three more innings after that and went wicketless in 44 overs. Even there, he didn’t look like an exhausted force. He recorded an effective pace, moved the ball steadily and produced a gem or two at times.

On the contrary, Ishant simply looked tired and distressed in his last two games. There were no signs of terminal decline, and it seemed just a matter of sorting out the wounds, taming the stubborn body parts, finding the rhythm and lifting the spirits. He’s been unfortunate with injuries – just before the 2020 New Zealand tour, he twisted and fractured his ankle while on call in the sequel; the hamstring injury he suffered in the Indian Premier League the same year jeopardized the tour of Australia; then he injured his right arm during the WTC final, before dislocating a finger from his right hand in Kanpur. Fast bowlers take time to recover to their best from injuries, and Ishant could go through such a fleeting phase.

road ahead

In the meantime, he could take a break, take some time off from the game, get back to full fitness, readjust to the National Cricket Academy, maybe fly out for a stint in the county and come back refreshed for the final phase of his career. Rather, it’s more advisable than jumping straight into the Ranji Trophy in a desperate comeback attempt. It would be a travesty of justice if Ishant’s potential were locked in forever. He could offer Indian cricket more, just as Indian cricket could do its part to preserve it with precise workload management. Not being chosen for the IPL is a blessing, he could channel all his energy into Test cricket.

Much, however, would depend on Ishant’s own determination, the state of his body, his awareness of the state of his body, how he would preserve it, and how the management of the team regulate his workload. Fitness has rarely been a concern for him – his longevity bears witness to this (among fast bowlers, only Kapil Dev has bowled more tests than him). Fitness is an underrated aspect of his career – there have been few lengthy layoffs forced by injuries or an injury that seemed career threatening. He did not undergo lengthy rehabs or action adjustments to avoid injury.

For motivation, Ishant could look to Anderson and Stuart Broad. Anderson seemed a waning force in 2015, before masterfully adding more tools to his cat; such as more use of the leg cutter, swing seam, reverse motion of a good length (like when he crossed India at Chepauk last year), better use of the old ball and absolute mastery of the drummers’ minds. After his 33rd birthday, the England legend gobbled up 227 wickets at an average of 21, as opposed to his average of 29 before he was 33.

Not just Anderson, Curtly Ambrose played until he was 37, Courtney Walsh until he was 39, and both were just as sharp as they were in their late twenties, the so-called peak of fast bowlers. . After his 33rd birthday, Glenn McGrath continued to be the metronomic force as he had been and added another 141 wickets at age 22 to his run. So it’s entirely conceivable that Ishant not only makes a comeback, but continues to enjoy a productive late-career push into the gracefully aging athlete community.