Cricket is a strange game and nobody knows what can catapult or relegate one to an unexpected high or abysmal low in a matter of a few days. In Ishant Sharma’s case, it has been a matter of just three wickets. That’s all he got in two innings in the third Test against Australia and that has made him the cynosure of all eyes, at least for the moment.
Scores of scribes, Indian and Australian, started gathering at the Indian team’s hotel in Perth on Sunday morning. With the match getting over a day before schedule, their workplace had shifted beyond the boundary and all wanted a piece of Ishant, the gangling teenager from Delhi who shot to fame a day earlier by making life miserable for Ricky Ponting.
Not comfortable in front of a hall full of newsmen and shy to talk about himself, Ishant’s job was made easier by bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad, who also took a few questions. The focus, still, was very much on the bowler and he seemed just as uncomfortable as Ponting had been against his bowling at the WACA ground a day earlier.
“Not sure whether I bowled any differently in this Test from what I normally do. Be it a club match, one for Delhi, or the little bit of international cricket I have played, I always try bowling to the best of my abilities. Consciously, I didn’t try to change myself because I believe that a good ball is a good ball, be it in domestic or international cricket.”
Just four Tests old, Ishant already has a five-wicket haul under his belt and after a standout performance here, he is likely to get a hero’s welcome when he returns to India. Has he had the time to think that fame lasts just as long as one performs and that if not handled properly, it can have a detrimental effect on players? “I know I have to keep doing well. I have so far been focussed on my game and have not thought about anything else. That’s how I am looking at things at the moment.”
And how does it feel having bowled so well with just one wicket to show for it in the second innings? “Yes, you may feel bad at times if you don’t get many wickets despite bowling well. But I am not thinking about that right now. I know that if I keep bowling well, wickets will come,” said Ishant, who felt that it was rhythm more than swing or cut that helped him go full steam at the Australia captain.
Prasad’s five commandments
Prasad seems to have settled in nicely to his role of being the bowling coach. He said his job entailed understanding five basic things about his charges — technique, tactics, mentality, physical conditioning and lifestyle. “Once you know these things, you start understanding them better and can become their mentor and motivator.”
He said that after having a word with Dennis Lillee here, his advice for the bowlers was to “bowl a shade fuller” than what they had in Melbourne and Sydney with the option of “pulling the length back a bit” for variety. “It’s got more to do with tactics than technique at this level. A lot has got to do with field placements as well.”