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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Cricket

I have learnt my lessons late: Ishant Sharma
Khurram Habib, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 31, 2013
First Published: 00:10 IST(31/3/2013)
Last Updated: 11:00 IST(31/3/2013)

Cars automatically become a favourite toy of the rich and famous cricketers. And among the many things Sachin Tendulkar has handed down to young India players is a passion for fancy cars.

Ishant Sharma too has a few, including an Audi that sports many scratches and dents — tell-tale signs of having manoeuvred through Delhi's chaotic traffic.

He looks at the side of his Honda Civic — a car meant for 'normal' days — as someone from a bunch of fans who are gathered for an 'Ishant vs You” contest points to a dent.

“That is old,” he says dismissively, as he settles in his car and lowers the volume of the stereo. “I have become a lot more careful.”

Brittle body
Almost as careful as he has to be with his injury-prone body as he prepares for the IPL after the Tests?

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“Well, you can't complain about the amount of cricket. You are a professional sportsman. It is your job to take care of your body. I have learnt it,” he says. The hard way seems to be left unsaid.

Over the past season, Ishant has been thrust into the role of spearheading the India pace attack. With Zaheer Khan axed and facing fitness issues and pace sensation Umesh Yadav injured as well, he had young Bhuvneshwar Kumar for company against Australia.

The big test will come abroad at the end of the year as the seamers have a limited role to play in Indian conditions. Besides, the old faces are likely to return to challenge him. But he is up for it.

Mind game
“Fast bowling in India isn't easy. If you don't take a wicket in a match, your confidence dips because people are expecting a lot no matter how unresponsive the wicket is. How you get out of that phase is the challenge. And I think a lot of it — whether I am in form or not — is in my mind.”

He admits it took him a bit too long to understand that. “I realised it late. I had already played 30 Tests when I learnt about my bowling.” The Delhi match was his 51st Test.

The current mantra is this. Bowl to contain with the new ball on Indian tracks but look for wickets abroad, although he didn't mind picking the first two wickets in the first session to peg back Australia in the Kotla Test.

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Role models
It also means he wants to bowl consistently even if it means within limitations. And that becomes clear when he names Glenn McGrath, his idol.

“Wake him up in the middle of the night and hand the ball, and he will still be able bowl at a particular spot.”

Ishant also acknowledges how highly he regards Dale Steyn. The South Africa pace spearhead will be his teammate with the Hyderabad Sunrisers for the next couple of months but will be his foe when India tour South Africa. He looks forward to tap into Steyn's bowling wisdom.

“He is the best in the world.” Besides pure skill, Ishant also admires Steyn's aggression.

On aggression, the clashes with the Aussie players in the Delhi Test are still fresh. Ishant was fined as well for getting too worked up after dismissing James Pattinson.

There is a difference between 'our' aggression and 'their' (Aussie) aggression, he says. “They are smart using aggression. They know how and when to get away.”


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