Ishant Sharma bowls during the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy semi-final match against Sri Lanka in Cardiff, south Wales. AFP
Ishant Sharma's talent has never been in doubt. As a 19-year-old he had the best batsman in the world at that time, Ricky Ponting, dancing to his tune. But, even after five years of international cricket his figures don't do justice to his skill set.
He's got a lovely high-arm action, he gets the ball to swing both ways, he's got nip and can generate disconcerting bounce.
It's the last bit that's important here. With his slender, 6'5 frame he can extract unnerving bounce even off a good length, but, for far too long a hint of bounce on a playing surface sees him dip his length by a yard.
Australian fast bowling legend Jeff Thomson told HT during India's last tour Down Under what he felt was the Delhi pacer's main problem.
“I thought Ishant bowled well, although I don't like the length he's bowling, it's about a few yards too short,” the Australian pace bowling legend said at the time.
Need for guidance
He added something that still holds true today, but is hardly that relevant anymore. “I think India need an experienced bowling coach to guide the young fast bowlers. You've got a bloke (Eric Simons) who hasn't played a single Test,” he said.
Soon after this statement, Joe Dawes was hired as India's bowling coach. A former policeman, he too has never played a Test.
Although after a belated first-class debut, at 27, he built up a reputation as a tough-nosed pacer. In the current setup, Dawes' role assumes even greater significance.
During practice sessions he spends times observing India's three-pronged pace attack and minces no words in his assessment.
He also jokes around with his bunch, shares a laugh or two. You know the routine. Good cop, bad cop. After a so-so run in the tournament, Ishant would have heard some choice words from the Aussie. Whatever, it was, he took it well.
After Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav set the early tone, Ishant took it up notch. By the time he was brought on for the 12th over of the innings, the new ball bowlers had softened up the Sri Lanka batting.
Ishant provided the knockout blow. By the time his spell ended the game was all but over.
The most experienced of India's pace battery, Ishant, however feels he's still learning his game. After his man of the match performance he refrained from being called the leader of the pack.