Ishant Sharma hails Bumrah as leader of attack, says winning WTC as good as World Cup

Mayank Kumar

Mayank Kumar

Author| Feb 23, 7:55 AM

Image: Twitter
Image: Twitter

Starting out as a fiery right arm fast who could clock up to 150 kilometres an hour, Ishant Sharma later graduated to become a ‘workhorse’ who could challenge batsmen for long periods of time. Although the wickets column continued to dry, Ishant kept his spot based on India's demand for a bowler who could continue to bowl hard lines and length with the same energy and intensity throughout the day.

His persistence with the back of length made him look lethal and always kept him in the game, but more often than not the barren wicket column made him earn the tag of being ‘unlucky’ even when he bowled with utmost control.

Now, on the verge of a remarkable milestone that has been achieved only once by an Indian pacer before him, Ishant sat down to look back on his career, and gave an outlook of how he sees the Indian team going forward in the near future.

He has been the go-to guy for his captains including MS Dhoni and later Virat Kohli in his career that is set to touch a big landmark of 100 Tests in the third Test against England. He believes that the clear communication between the captain and him has been the crucial aspect of his success on the international stage.

"More than the captain understanding me, it is important for me to understand what the captain wants from me. If the communication is clear, things get easy for the team. The more time you spend with a captain, the communication gets easier,” Ishant said in a virtual press conference on Monday.

Ishant will play an important role for India this year where India are scheduled to play at least five Tests in England and also a World Test Championship Final, subject to the results of the ongoing series.

Only Kapil Dev (131 Tests) has played more Test matches for India than Ishant among all the pacers India have produced, but the lanky pacer understands the gaps is too big to cover in his career. He has been known for being in the present and looks forward to short-term goals instead of going for glory in the distant future. His eyes are zoned in on helping India to qualify for the finals of the World Test Championship, which he said will feel like winning an ODI World Cup.

"There's a lot of time to 131. Right now I am only thinking about how we can win the next Test. And then the next so that we can qualify for the final of the World Test Championship. I have only format, so the WTC is like a World Cup for me. If we reach the final and then go on to win it, it will be the same feeling as winning the ICC World Cup,” Ishant added.

He last played for India in ODI back in 2016 while his last T20 appearance was back in 2013 and he did not hide his desires of playing white-ball cricket once again. However, he does not allow his absence from the white-ball game affect his overall mindset and instead works on maintaining focus on whatever opportunities he gets to help India win a game. 

On the contrary, he believes that the long period of time away from the other two formats helped him reach the milestone of 100 Test matches at the age of 32, otherwise, it could have taken a decade longer for him to reach.

"Obviously I want to play white-ball cricket. A sportsman's only job is to play. What will he do if he doesn't play? But I don't think too much about the formats I miss. I only think about the format I am playing. How can I perform better in the format I am playing? How can I make my team win? If you think positively about a situation, it is easier to stay grateful and perform for the team,” Ishant added.

"Maybe not playing three formats has helped me play 100 but I don't think I wouldn't have got there if I was playing other formats. I am only 32 after all, and not 42. Maybe I wouldn't have got there this early, but I am sure the amount of time I have played and the way I stay fit and look after my conditioning, I would have played 100."

Ishant was certain to play his 100th Test in Australia where his rise in international cricket began some 12 years ago, but the ankle injury prevented his plans and he, understandably, is pragmatic about things out of his control. He pointed out the skills of forgetting things and moving on in life and game in order to regain focus on what lies ahead otherwise being stuck in past will surely affect future performances.

"I'd have loved to go to Australia and complete my 100 Tests there but there are things that are not in your control. Because of Covid restrictions, I couldn't have made it in time. But the sooner you forget things and move on in life, the better it is for you. This is the biggest lesson I have learned. If you are stuck on the past, you can't move ahead. The next match can also get affected by your past performance. I only keep trying to forget what has happened and focus on what lies ahead,” Ishant said on missing the Australia tour.

Ishant has spearheaded the Indian pace attack since the retirement of Zaheer Khan, who he credits a lot for guiding at the start of his career. He still remembers the words of encouragement he received from Zaheer when he was coming up through the ranks. Now, Ishant sees that form of Zaheer Khan in Jasprit Bumrah who guides his teammates as per their strengths. Ishant hailed Bumrah as the leader of the attack and suggested that the pacer who has emerged as one of the main bowlers in the last few years has to be the leading guide for pacers after his departure from the game.

"I learnt a lot from Zak [Zaheer Khan]. Especially his work ethic. He always used to tell me how important fitness is for a fast bowler. That's what I kept in mind. That's what I tell everyone in the team: keep working hard on your fitness and I am sure you will play longer,” Ishant said on Zaheer Khan.

"Jasprit Bumrah has to lead the way for the youngsters after me. The way he grooms the youngsters, the way he talks to them is important. Saini has pace, Siraj has control. Everyone's skill is different. If you ask Saini to bowl in one area, you are not doing justice to his strength. If you ask Siraj to bowl consistently at 140, you are not backing his strength. So, it is important to understand their strengths first."

Ishant reached another milestone of 300 wickets in Tests in his 98th Test which was the first Test of the series against England and Kohli will hope Ishant will have a lot of overs left under his belt in a very important year for India in Test cricket.

  • Ishant Sharma
  • Virat Kohli
  • MS Dhoni
  • Eng vs Ind

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