Ishant Sharma is 18-year-old, 6’4”, and bowls fast. Till Wednesday, the Delhi cricketer knew little of the arbitrary ways of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Now he does.
Around 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday, Ishant -- playing only his fifth first-class match -- got to hear something special: that he would be flying to join the Indian team in South Africa before the third Test.
Teammates and opponents gathered around the youngster, offering congratulations. TV cameras appeared. A star had been born -- or had been sighted, at least.
"I'm very nervous," Ishant told HT. At 4.40 p.m., after the press briefing, Ishant was rushed to the team hotel. The Delhi team cancelled his tickets for the next match in Vijayawada; the BCCI got moving on getting Ishant a visa.
What followed was something he would not forget in a hurry. At 5 p.m., BCCI chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty asked Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) sports secretary Sunil Dev to "put Ishant's departure on hold" for now.
Chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar, in a signed statement, said: “Ishant… was being considered to be drafted into the Indian squad presently in South Africa.
This was being done to provide the youngster with the necessary international exposure. Considering his recent Ranji Trophy schedule for Delhi this season, it has now been decided not to have him fly down to Cape Town and instead allow him to concentrate on his domestic first-class matches." Dev was furious — and left in a dilemma: “I do not have heart to face Ishant."