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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Ishant Sharma’s Nagpur show puts him in reckoning for South Africa tour

Ishant Sharma’s resurgent showing in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Nagpur is a reminder of his prowess in Test cricket

india-vs-sri-lanka-2017 Updated: Nov 28, 2017 22:20 IST
Sidharth Gulati
Sidharth Gulati
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ishant Sharma picked a total of five wickets in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Nagpur.
Ishant Sharma picked a total of five wickets in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Nagpur.(PTI)

If the Kolkata Test was all about Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami’s splendid show, Ishant Sharma’s performance in Nagpur once again proved why he is one of India’s leading fast bowlers, especially in the longest format.

Playing his first Test since March, Ishant bowled with tremendous discipline as his three-wicket haul in the first innings restricted Sri Lanka to a below-par total. Two wickets in the second essay not only sealed a remarkable comeback but also guided India to an innings and 239-run win, their joint-highest in terms of runs.

Given a chance to play thanks to the unavailability of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who recently got married, and Shami -- who missed out with a niggle -- the lanky pacer made the most of the opportunity with an inspired display.

Unlike the Eden track, the Nagpur pitch had more in it for spinners than pacers. But to his credit, Ishant consistently bowled in right areas and was more impressive than Umesh Yadav, who took two wickets in the match.

READ | Rested for ODIs, India captain Virat Kohli undecided on Sri Lanka T20s too

The Ranji Way

It hasn’t been an easy ride for the 29-year-old pacer. While he last played an ODI in 2016, Ishant was picked in the T20I team way back in 2013. With Shami, Bhuvneshwar and Umesh being preferred more, his Test spot looked in jeopardy.

Back in domestic circuit, Ishant Sharma did really well for Delhi in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season -- picking up 20 wickets in four games.

He started the tournament with a five-wicket haul against Assam before his 3/20 and 1/34 proved vital in Delhi registering a massive innings win over Railways.

Against Uttar Pradesh at the Feroz Shah Kotla, captain Ishant led from the front as his match-haul of 6/76 guided his team to their second win of the season.

READ | Rangana Herath ruled out of India vs Sri Lanka 3rd Test, Jeffrey Vandersay in

After failing to make it to the playing XI for the first Test against Sri Lanka, he was released from the squad. It seemed to have had an impact on him as he produced a masterful spell against Maharashtra, that saw them capitulate to 99 all out.

The leadership role in Ranji Trophy seems to have worked for him. During the Nagpur Test, he looked calm, assured and at times, Dinesh Chandimal’s side found him unplayable. No wonder, Virat Kohli called him ‘the standout bowler’ of the match.

Come Delhi Test, Ishant Sharma would be seen as India’s bowling leader, something the experts have been waiting for him to become for many years.

READ | At drinks break, Siddharth Kaul got biggest career newsbreak - India call up

South Africa test

Ten years ago, nobody would’ve thought that there would be a healthy competition in India’s pace department. For the upcoming South Africa tour, which starts in first week of January 2018, India have plenty of options but the real challenge would be to pick the best three in playing XI.

With Mohammed Shami being injury prone and Umesh Yadav being inconsistent at times, Ishant could be a certainty in the starting lineup for the three-match series.

Although Ishant has an average record in South Africa (12 wickets in five Tests and four wickets in two ODIs), his ability to bowl long spells and generate bounce from wickets overseas makes him an asset for any captain. One shouldn’t forget Ishant Sharma was the hero of India’s last big overseas win, the 2014 Lord’s Test where he captured 7/74 in the second innings.

The Kohli-led India has had a remarkable year in Tests but the captain has already said - “If we can conquer the overseas season, that’s when you will see a broader smile on my face”. Ishant Sharma has everything in him to be one of the reasons for that smile.

First Published: Nov 28, 2017 19:06 IST