‘When Virat took over...,’ Ishant Sharma explains why Indian bowlers are performing better under Kohli
Ishant Sharma was told about his problems by many but there was only one Jason Gillespie who provided him the solutions that he was seeking for the longest time.
Ishant also feels that “better communication” with years of experience between him, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav also worked wonders for country’s finest pace unit under Virat Kohli’s captaincy.
“The problem in India is that everybody tells you about the problem but no one tells you the solution. Now knowing the solution is an important aspect,” Ishant told reporters during an interaction at the Feroz Shah Kotla after the Ranji Trophy encounter against Hyderabad.
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“I have realised that may be one or two people worked on the solutions. Problem everyone can tell you but one who is a good coach will tell you about solutions,” said the veteran of 96 Tests and 292 wickets.
So what was his problem? “A lot of people would tell me that I need to increase the pace of my fuller deliveries. No one told me how to do that? It was when I went to play county cricket, Jason Gillespie gave me the solution,” said Ishant, who played for Sussex under Gillespie’s coaching.
“Gillespie told me that in order to increase pace in fuller deliveries, you don’t just release it but hit the deck so that it should target the knee roll,” he said.
Ishant also explained how the former Australian pacer changed his training methods to get better results.
“Like first, I would put cones (on good length spots) during nets. But that’s okay for a youngster, who wants to get his areas right but for someone like me, I need to see where my ball is finishing rather than where it’s pitched. Practice is almost same but outcome is different. Gillespie’s instructions ensured that my fuller delivery is faster now.”
Ishant played a lot of Test matches under Mahendra Singh Dhoni and there were six or seven fast bowlers being rotated at that time, compared to three or four now.
“Look during Dhoni’s time, some of us didn’t have that much of experience. Also the fast bowlers would be rotated a lot, that’s also a reason that consistency as a group couldn’t be achieved.
“If you know that you are a pool of 3-4 fast bowlers (now with Jasprit Bumrah), that increases communication. Earlier, there would be 6 to 7 bowlers, communication wasn’t there.
“But when Virat took over, we have all by then gained fair amount of experience and that helped. Now when you play more, stay in that dressing room more, spend more time with team compared to family, discussions are free and frank. And then you start enjoying when you go out there in the middle. That’s a different feeling,” said the man who will be the second pacer after Kapil Dev to complete 100 Tests.
Ishant now bowls in short bursts with increased pace and it has happened after he stopped bowling his stock back of length deliveries which was a routine under Dhoni, who used him for long spells.
“From the beginning, I got a tag and people started calling me “workhorse”, “workhorse”. So seniors at that time would tell me that you need to bowl 20 overs and if you even give 60 runs, you will still end up getting three wickets. “So that works on your mind that you have to bowl 20 overs. So you bowl back of length deliveries and batsmen start leaving those till they get set and then come back to attack you. And you end up giving away 80 runs.”
So was this role of a “workhorse” given to him? “No role was given to me but that became a role. Your job is to get batsmen out whenever you can. I was not experienced enough earlier but now I know my job.”
So what’s the secret of getting better with age? “Haven’t you heard light flickers one final time before it goes off,” he said on a lighter note.
“I had so much of ups and downs in my career and there hasn’t been a lot of consistency. So you are under a lot of pressure. Since 2010, I used to be under a lot of pressure to perform and lost my sleep over it. So I have stopped thinking. I will give my hundred percent to each delivery and result will take care of itself.”
Purely because of his longevity, his name is taken in the same breath as Kapil or Zaheer Khan, the latter also being a guiding force for the better part of his career.
“I am not into comparisons with Zak paa or Kapil paaji to be honest. They have performed a lot for the country.
“As far as I am concerned, I can tell you whatever experience I have gained, I try and pass it onto the juniors. That’s important. So that in coming years, there is another fast bowler who can play for Delhi. That would make me proud,” added Ishant.