It's more than a little surprising when you find the hottest property in Indian cricket shooting for an advertisement at a dingy basement. It is even more surprising to see him cringe just that little bit when in front of a camera. The initial uneasiness apart, however, Ishant Sharma swiftly takes to the flashlights. The Reebok photo-op done with, he sits down for a chat with HT.
A year or so ago, you were trying to find your feet. Today, you are one of the best in the world. Who or what do you attribute the rise of Ishant Sharma to?
From sweating it out for the u-19s and Delhi to leading the Indian attack, a lot has indeed happened. I feel whatever I have achieved so far is a result of my hard work, commitment and most importantly, my support system — family and friends.
Your international career got off to a false start when you were called up to the Indian team to South Africa, only to be told it was an error. Now, when you look back, how hard was it coping with that setback?
I was unhappy and upset when I learnt about the mistake, but, to be really honest, I think that was a turning point. It made me mentally stronger. I was determined to prove myself at the highest level.
How would you rate Dhoni as a captain?
He is a very good captain. The best thing about him is that he keeps it simple. He always says 'don't complicate the game, believe in your abilities'. He often tells us that as long as we give our 100 per cent, we should not worry about the outcome.
How much of a role do you think Gary Kirsten and Venkatesh Prasad have played in the team's success?
Oh, they have been a massive influence. They have told us to enjoy each other's success and back each other up through the bad times. We are like a family now, and that translates to success on the field. Prasad, in particular, has helped me improve a lot. It took the two of us time to get to know each other. I remember when I made my debut, we would spend hours on end without talking about my bowling even once. We became friends first.
Who is the number one team in the world now?
I think people talk up a team only when they are doing well. But when the same team is losing, everyone brings them down. Rankings don't matter, a team needs to achieve consistency first. That's what matters.
With series coming thick and fast, do you think you should maybe pick and choose games? Is burnout a fear?
I love to play. I want to play all the games I can when fit. I think if you take care of your body properly, nothing is too much cricket.