'Those 9 overs turned my life'
The 54 balls that he bowled to the world's highest-ranked Test batsman Ricky Ponting was the "turning point" of his life, says India's pace sensation Ishant Sharma.
The gangling 6'4" Delhi speedster, hailed as the find of the just-concluded Australian tour, has cool head despite being thrust into limelight suddenly.
The 19-year-old cricketer told PTI in an interview in New Delhi "the nine overs during which I bowled Ponting out in Perth Test are very important for me. That was the turning point of my life. This tour was very crucial for me. It has changed my whole life".
Big bucks, hysterical fans and media adulation that comes with cricket stardom have not gone to his head. "Everyone tells me don't forget from where you've come. Never forget your roots," said Ishant, son of an air conditioner mechanic.
While Ponting lavished praise on Ishant for producing "outstanding" spells, his predecessor Steve Waugh described the Delhiite as "next best thing in Indian cricket".
"It is a good sign that every one has words of praise for me. To get a compliment from a great batsman like Ricky Ponting motivates me," said the bowler, who emerged as India's highest wicket-taker with 14 scalps from nine matches in the tri-series.
Asked if all this praise also put pressure on him, Ishant said it had only a positive influence on him. "Sometimes it can motivate you, sometime it can put pressure on you. It all depends on whether you take it in positive way or negatively. I take it positively so I derive motivation from all these and it is certainly going to help me if I am ever down," he said.
He, however, acknowledged that it was a good feeling to be recognised by every one.
"Earlier, hardly anyone knew me but now every one knows me. Everyone recognises who is Ishant, so it is a good feeling," he said.
Ishant, who consistently bowled around 140 kmph and also sometimes touched close to 150 kmph, is not trying to be in the league of speedsters like Australia's Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan in terms of pace.
"I am not thinking about pace, but hitting right lengths and to my strengths. I want to do that consistently. My deliveries also have good bounce. I am not concentrating about pace at all," he said.
On the tough competition in the fast bowling department in India, Ishant said he would not lose heart if he was made to sit out of the team.
"If I'm struggling to find place in the team I am not going to be disheartened by that because I would know that if someone is selected ahead of me he is doing a better job," he said.
Ishant was not unduly worried about possible injuries in view of so much cricket being played now a days and appeared confident of sustaining himself.
"If I continue to do the same things which I am doing now I don't think I have to be careful about sustaining myself because I am doing well at present. I am doing the right things," he said.
He also said that he would not restrict himself to any one format of the game to prevent injuries.
Ishant said despite all the off-field controversies making headlines in media during their tour to Australia, the team kept its focus on cricket.
"Once we entered the field we forget everything and concentrated on our game. We were not exposed to papers and television which helped us," he said.
He defended off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who was at the center of various controversies during the three-month tour, saying he could not have indulged in sledging.
"I don't think he said anything to anyone. He is a kind of guy who likes to enjoy his own life," he said.
Asked to compare the captaincies of Anil Kumble and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ishant said both were very different from each other.
"Kumble is more calm and patient but that was what the requirement in the Test while Dhoni is aggressive which is the need of limited-overs' games. "But one thing is common in them -- they both ask us to do normal things," he said.