Sri Lanka vs India: Pacer Ishant Sharma toils on the fringes in Lankan tour | india-vs-sri-lanka-2017 | Hindustan Times
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Sri Lanka vs India: Pacer Ishant Sharma toils on the fringes in Lankan tour

When Indian cricket team played Sri Lanka national cricket team at the SSC last week, Ishant Sharma was warming the bench. Given his vast experience, one would have expected him to be the leader of the attack rather than be on the fringes.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 09, 2017 20:56 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
India cricket team pacer Ishant Sharma (R) bowls in the nets as coach Ravi Shastri looks on during a practice session at the Sinhalease Sports Club (SSC) Ground in Colombo on August 1, ahead of second Test vs Sri Lanka national cricket team.
India cricket team pacer Ishant Sharma (R) bowls in the nets as coach Ravi Shastri looks on during a practice session at the Sinhalease Sports Club (SSC) Ground in Colombo on August 1, ahead of second Test vs Sri Lanka national cricket team. (/Getty Images)

When the rest of the team adjourns for lunch during this Test series, Ishant Sharma is bowling in the middle. Only during breaks can the bowling coach work on his second string as his main focus is on the playing eleven.

To his credit though, the fast bowler has adjusted to the unfamiliar role without fuss and gone about his job with a smiling face. But it should be a challenge for a man who was the star of the show on his last Test tour of Sri Lanka.

Ishant has already played 77 Tests, and taken 218 wickets. But the lanky bowler remains the biggest enigma of Indian cricket. Two years ago, when India played in the series decider at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground, Ishant was the match-winner, claiming five wickets in the first innings and three in the second.

Marking a decade

It was the kind of impact performance expected of the most experienced bowler in the team. Having made his India debut in 2007, Ishant has completed 10 years in international cricket.

His entry was dramatic, a five-wicket haul against Pakistan in his second Test was followed by incisive bowling on the Australia tour. He was marked out to lead the Indian pace attack for the next decade. The career though hasn’t gone on expected lines, with only sporadic success.

When India played at the SSC last week though, the lanky pacer was warming the bench. He is very much in the scheme of things, being part of the elite Indian pace unit. But given his vast experience, one would have expected him to be the leader of the attack rather than be on the fringes.

Initial zip

The early promise he showed, especially on the 2007-08 series in Australia, he was seen as someone who can be the heir to Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan.

Ishant got all the opportunities, having played 12 Tests in the two-year cycle, but after SSC, the impact performance has been missing. He has been out of favour after claiming three wickets in three Tests in the last series against Australia.

The action shifts to Pallekele for the final Test. The wicket is known to assist pacers, and teams consider adding an extra fast bowler. While Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have taken over the mantle of spearheads, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has the edge over Ishant even for the fourth bowler’s spot.

Sri Lanka’s former pace bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake believes Bhuvneshwar is the best of the lot in helpful conditions. “Umesh Yadav and Shami are really quick; you have a good bunch of fast bowlers who are capable of bowling on any track. But my favourite is Bhuvneshwar, he has an amazing seam position… no one in the world has. We try to teach our bowlers to bowl with seam upright, not many can release like Bhuvneshwar. He has got great skills and good control. He swings both ways. I put him in the top bracket. He knows exactly what to do.”