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Ishant Sharma reveals secret to his red-hot form

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A renewed approach to life has helped Ishant Sharma grow as a bowler, he said after taking a five-wicket haul in India’s first day-night Test. It was his first five-for in India since his first home match in 2007 against Pakistan.

Ishant has more or less become a permanent member of this Indian team over the last two years, and is central to the pace attack that has progressively improved as India firmly established themselves in the No. 1 spot in Tests. This permanence and the recent bursts of improvement have not been enough to make Ishant consistently challenge for a limited-overs spot. But 12 years and 96 Tests later, he is not wasting time feeling sorry for himself.

“In some sense [it hurts], yes. But I’m at a stage of my life where I’ve stopped worrying about these kind of things. I’m 31 now, I can’t keep worrying now about which format my name has been picked for.” Ishant said at the press conference in Kolkata. “Whether I play for India, whether I play Ranji Trophy – I just want to be playing at this point. It’s a simple thing. If you desire to keep playing, you’ll do well. Cricket’s given us everything. If we keep cribbing about small things like these, we will never improve.”

Just before Sri Lanka’s tour of India almost exactly two years ago, Ishant had taken 212 wickets at 36.93 in 77 Tests. Since the start of that series, he has taken 76 wickets in 19 games. His career average has gone up by a dramatic four runs per wicket and is presently at 32.94. That is precisely the average at which Zaheer Khan finished his career. If he plays in four more Tests, Ishant will be first frontline fast bowler since Kapil Dev to go past 100 Tests for India. These are all feats that were improbable some five years ago. What changed?

“I think I’m enjoying my cricket now,” Ishant said. “Earlier I used to put pressure on myself about performing – that I need to take wickets, that I’m only beating the batsman…a lot of things used to run on my mind. Now I don’t think too much about those things, just how to take wickets. Obviously I’m experienced so I can assess conditions and adjust my lengths quickly, that makes it easy.”

Ishant Sharma interview on The Cricket Monthly: ‘If I don’t take wickets even in one innings, I think my career for India is over’

Another feat Ishant achieved on Friday was that he bowled India’s first delivery in a day-night Test. Bowling with the pink ball, he said, was not the same.

“It was very different. In the start you must have seen that when we bowled a normal length, it wasn’t swinging that much. After that we realised what lengths we need to be hitting in order to get some more help. So the three of us [fast bowlers] communicated about hitting the right length,” Ishant said.

Regardless of that rustiness, India managed to be consistent enough to have Bangladesh six down by lunch. The fall of those wickets began with Ishant trapping Imrul Kayes lbw. And it came with a ball he only started developing during the second day in the previous Test.

“You must have seen that normally I used to swing it away from the left-hander,” Ishant said, talking of his new incoming delivery. “So I needed to add a variation. Your game only improves when you bring variety to it, and build confidence to bowl those in the match. So I was trying to bowl more of that in practice. In this match, the first wicket that I got – Imrul Kayes lbw – I got him with that ball. The two bowled wickets I got were also that ball. The ball lands and stays straight, it doesn’t go away from the batsman.”

On the flip side of this contest, Bangladesh have struggled to show any resistance, in any innings, against this Indian attack. While neither of the pitches have particularly difficult to bat on, Bangladesh’s top-order has crumbled in the face of relentless pressure. At the same time, their bowlers haven’t come as close to troubling India. But even as they face a grueling period, head coach Russell Domingo was optimistic, citing Ishant’s steep rise as a potential inspiration for his own bowlers.

“I don’t want to keep comparing the two sides but if you think of the number of Tests their pacers have played, and compare that with Ebadat’s fourth Test match, we have a very inexperienced bowling line-up.,” he said.

“Look at the way Ishant started, and the way his career is now. It takes a bit of time for these young fast bowlers to find the length and the discipline it takes to bowl to guys like Rohit, Virat or Pujara. It is a steep learning curve at the moment.”



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Liam Livingstone, Josh Inglis smash fifties in Perth Scorchers' victory

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Chasing a modest 154, the belligerent openers flayed the Thunder attack in an opening stand of 136



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Recent Match Report – Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka 1st Test 2020

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Lunch Zimbabwe 260 for 5 (Chakabva 7*, Raza 6*, Lakmal 2-42) v Sri Lanka

Having been stalled for most of day one by a flat surface and Zimbabwe’s diligent batting, Sri Lanka finally made headway in Harare, claiming three wickets before lunch. Thanks to day one’s hard work, however, Zimbabwe can still dream of a total in the range of 400, particularly as long as Sikandar Raza remains at the crease. The hosts moved slightly faster through the course of the session than they had for much of day one, making 71 runs in 26 overs – a scoring rate of 2.73.

Suranga Lakmal, the leader of Sri Lanka’s attack, had not quite been at his best on the first day, perhaps toiling too long outside off stump, essentially delivering too many balls that were safely left alone. He made a much better start on day two however, coming around the wicket early to left-hander Craig Ervine to angle the ball into the stumps.

Ervine was clearly less comfortable against this line of attack, and although he survived Lakmal’s first spell, overnight partner Brendan Taylor would not be so fortunate. Having scratched his way to 21, Taylor was hit in front of the stumps by a seaming Lakmal delivery that would have probably gone on to shave leg stump.

Zimbabwe’s new batsman Sean Williams, playing his first innings as captain, made a tetchy start as well, unable to get his timing right against either the quicks or the spinners. Ervine, however, had settled following the conclusion of that Lakmal spell, and looked – as he had on day one – like Zimbabwe’s most assured batsman. The pair put on 39 together at a relatively modest pace before Williams was drawn into a loose drive by Lasith Embuldeniya, who floated the ball wide and had it collect Williams’ outside edge.

Although lunch was less than 20 minutes away at Williams’ departure, Ervine was unable to stick around until the break, lasting only a few further deliveries. It was deservedly Lakmal who removed him for 85, after Ervine attempted to punch through the off side and wound up only playing the ball back onto the stumps.



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Sana Mir left out of Pakistan squad for Women’s T20 World Cup

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Sana Mir, the vastly experienced former captain of the Pakistan women’s team, has been left out of the 15-player squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup.

Bismah Maroof will lead the side, which has three changes from the side that lost a T20I series 3-0 against England in Kuala Lumpur in December last year: batsmen Nahida Khan and Ayesha Zafar, and offspiner Rameen Shamim have been dropped, and in their place batsmen Muneeba Ali and Ayesha Naseem, and medium-pacer Aiman Anwar have been brought in.

Mir, 34, wasn’t a part of that series but played in the 3-0 win over Bangladesh at home in Lahore in November, picking up five wickets with a best of 3 for 49 in the second fixture. Overall, she has turned out in 106 T20Is over the years – the same as Maroof, making them the most experienced Pakistani players in the format – as well as 120 ODIs, the most among Pakistan women players.

“Though Sana Mir doesn’t feature in the 15-player line-up, I believe we still have the desired experience in the squad,” Urooj Mumtaz, the chair of the national women’s selection committee, said in a statement. “Sana has been a phenomenal servant of Pakistan cricket while being an inspiration to many girls out there. Unfortunately, her recent performances in the T20 format were not on her side.”

Captain Maroof said she had wanted Mir in the side, and hoped the veteran would continue to be a part of the set-up going forward. “It was a tough decision to leave out Sana Mir,” Maroof said. “I wanted to have her in the squad over which I, along with the selection committee, had deep deliberations. We had to decide between her and the emerging players who had been impressing on all the stages.

“I respect and support the decision of the major group and hope she will continue to serve Pakistan women’s cricket in future with the same passion and energy.”

On the make-up of the side, especially the inclusion of the teenaged Zafar and Aroob Shah, Mumtaz said, “Though the players who have been left out will be disappointed and heart-broken, this, however, should act as a motivation for them to come back more strongly. On the other side of the coin, the selection of 15-year-old Ayesha and 16-year-old Aroob Shah should be a motivation and message for all the budding youngsters.

“Furthermore, the selectors have also valued our domestic competition, while also taking into consideration the players who have been regularly part of the side since the Bangladesh series. The team has been selected keeping in mind the current form and performances along with the conditions in Australia and, at the same moment, we have come up with the right balance of youth and experience which will complement each other in the mega event.”

The Women’s T20 World Cup, to be played in Australia, will start on February 21, with Pakistan playing their first game on February 26, against West Indies in Canberra.

As part of the preparation for the event, Pakistan will leave for Australia on January 31 and play three warm-up matches against West Indies in early February. Prior to that, the PCB confirmed, there will be an eight-day camp from January 23 to 30 at the Hanif Mohammad High Performance Centre in Karachi.



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