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.”
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.”
Rachel Trenaman takes leave to focus on mental health
Rachel Trenaman, the Sydney Thunder and New South Wales allrounder who has been named in the Australia A squad to face India A, has taken time away from the game to focus on her mental health.
Trenaman, 18, played twice for the Thunder during this season’s WBBL and was part of the Australia A one-day squad for the series that will take place in Brisbane next week.
She has now stood down from that series and will be rested from the Women’s National Cricket League which resumes in January.
“We’re proud that Rachel was brave enough to speak up, and we’re here for her,” Dominic Thornely, the NSW Breakers head coach, said. “I know the cricket family is right behind her and we wish her the very best.”
Sydney Thunder’s acting general manager Chris Botherway said Trenaman had the full support of the Thunder, Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia.
“Rachel is a highly thought of young person who has the respect of her team-mates, coaches and support staff at Sydney Thunder and NSW Breakers,” he said. “Player health and well-being will always be our top priority and we will provide Rachel with all the time and support she needs to make a full recovery.”
Trenaman is the latest Australian cricketer to step back from the game for mental health reasons this season. Sophie Molineux, the Melbourne Renegades and Australia allrounder, announced last month that she was taking a break which followed the decisions taken by Glenn Maxwell, Will Pucovski and Nic Maddinson.
Pucovski and Maddinson returned for Victoria in the last round of Sheffield Shield matches while Maxwell is back in training with Victoria.
Bob Willis – 1949-2019 | ESPNcricinfo.com
Bob Willis, legendary England fast bowler, dies aged 70
The former England captain and fast bowler, who will be forever synonymous with England’s 1981 Ashes victory, died on December 4.
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Andrew Miller, ESPNcricinfo’s UK editor, writes a moving tribute in memory of England’s mightiest of fast bowlers.
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Willis’ passing, at the age of 70, had the cricketing world in mourning.
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Willis had developed a reputation for his dry, acerbic and generally scathing verdicts during his punditry career working for Sky Sports.
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What is less well known about Willis is that he was not even in the original squad picked for the Test.
Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme cleared to travel to Australia
NZC confirmed the pair would travel to Perth with the squad on Saturday having come through a training session in Mount Maunganui on Friday. Boult (side strain) and de Grandhomme (abdominal tear) had missed the second Test against England in Hamilton.
“Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme are both making good progress with their injuries and successfully trained today at Bay Oval,” NZC posted on Twitter. “The pair will travel with the team to Perth tomorrow.”
There still remains a question mark over their participation in the day-night Test at Perth Stadium which starts on Thursday, but the progress is encouraging.
Boult, especially, is vital to New Zealand’s hopes of pushing Australia with him potentially being a handful with the pink ball and his side strain was causing the most concern after he picked it up against England in Mount Maunganui.
“I don’t know if I’m really confident, but I’m quietly optimistic they’re tracking where we want them to be,” New Zealand coach Gary Stead said earlier this week.
In Boult’s absence, Matt Henry played the second Test against England but New Zealand will need to give serious consideration into introducing the extra pace of uncapped Lockie Ferguson. Tim Southee and Neil Wagner, who has yet to play a Test in Australia, were the other members of the pace attack.
De Grandhomme provides important balance to the New Zealand side. He averages 40.33 with the bat and 29.63 with the ball in 19 Tests. His injury handed a Test debut to Daryl Mitchell who made 73 but went wicketless in Hamilton.
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Bob Willis – 1949-2019 | ESPNcricinfo.com
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