India vs England: Ishant Sharma all charged up for the 100th Test

Updated on Feb 23, 2021 07:53 AM IST

India vs England: India have to beat England 2-1 or 3-1 to clinch a place in the final of ICC’s inaugural World Test Championship. As he plays only the longer format of the game now, WTC has extra importance.

India's Ishant Sharma celebrates. File(Action Images via Reuters)
India's Ishant Sharma celebrates. File(Action Images via Reuters)

With the series and a spot in the final of the World Test Championship on the line, Ishant Sharma is all charged up for his 100th Test match. The third Test between India and England, a day-night affair, will see the lanky pacer become only the second India pacer ever to play 100 games in the gruelling longest format of the game.

Given the demanding life of a pace bowler, there are hundred reasons to celebrate and cherish reaching this milestone. Sharma's mind though is taken over by the massive responsibility on his shoulders as the most experienced pace bowler in the side. India have to beat England 2-1 or 3-1 to clinch a place in the final of ICC’s inaugural World Test Championship. As he plays only the longer format of the game now, WTC has extra importance.

Also read: At shiny new Motera, beware the twilight hour

“At the moment, the next target is to win the next game. I just want to win the next game and (help India) qualify for the Test championship final. As I always say I have only one format to play and the World Test Championship is like a World Cup for me. If we reach the final and win this, I think I will have the same feeling like you play the ICC World Cup final or the Champions Trophy,” he said in a media interaction on Monday.

The teams go into the Ahmedabad game starting on Wednesday tied 1-1. Usually at home getting a result is not a tough ask for this strong Indian side backed by its spin strength. But the degree of difficulty is more this time because pace bowlers are expected to be the lead performers with the pink ball. England have a lethal pace attack. How Sharma and Jasprit Burmah match Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad could be a decisive factor.

Hundred is thus only a number for the 32-year-old speedster. His determination to win could be made out in the way he spoke at the media conference. The tone was measured; there was no hint of extra excitement of being on the cusp of a special achievement in his career.

“Over the years, I learnt by being in different situations. I have always had this motive in making the team win; till the day I play, I will play with the same motive. Personal milestones can be there, when you are about to leave your career you can see these milestones. But these are just numbers for me, I do not play for numbers, I just play to win,” he said.

Sharma burst onto the international scene as a gangly pace bowler 14 years ago when he made everyone sit up and take notice with a searing spell to Ricky Ponting at Perth in the 2007-08 series. Gifted with all the traits of a good fast bowler—height, athleticism and good action—it was a spectacular start to his career.

The early success however didn’t last long. Loss of form and injuries cut short his flight. He spoke about the difference in being a rookie and an established player. For him, everyone noticed the spell he bowled to Ponting because it was a young player bowling to an established player. “During my career, I have bowled many such (good) spells, but after I became an established player, they were not that noticed,” said Sharma.

Taking the rough with the smooth has taught him to take things in his stride, like his latest setback. He should have already played his 100th Test, during the tour of Australia, which he had so looked forward to. But an injury put him out of action.

Also read: Virat Kohli one century away from surpassing Ricky Ponting and creating world record

“I would have loved to go to Australia and complete my 100th Test. But there are many things that are not in your hand. I couldn’t go to Australia because of that (injury suffered in IPL). The quicker you forget things and move on, the more things become simple in life. This is what I have learnt in my career. Forget everything and move on and don't think about the past. I move on to the next match. And I always focus on the next match,” said Sharma, who has been plagued by injuries over the years.

His 100th Test comes at a perfect stage in his career. Since the start of 2018, he has been bowling at his best. Even on the unresponsive wickets at Chennai in this series, he bowled beautifully, completing 300 wickets in the first Test. He humbly attributed it to the opportunity of playing Test matches abroad in this cycle.

In India it has been tough work, but he will be happy at the sight of the Motera track. It has more grass than normal India wickets, he will have a pink ball in hand and he is guaranteed good help from the conditions to mark his milestone match with a good show.

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