Where art thou Ishant Sharma? What has happened to you? Are you ok? I write as a concerned fan, and I write in hope of inspiring you back on track to become one of the greats. If I’ve got your attention, then please read on…
In the (Australian) summer of 2007/8 you toured down under and immediately won plaudits as a real ‘up-and-comer’. I’m sure you remember that none other than former captain Steve Waugh, a man known for recognising good talent, called you India’s most exiting talent. Steve knows a thing or two about fast bowlers Ishant, in fact when he made those comments I immediately thought of his amazing encounters with former West Indian great Curtly Ambrose, and how much you (at that time) reminded me of him. The similarities were of course apparent in your height, and the way you delivered the ball from the top reach of your arm, and also the way you bounced the ball of the pitch with venom. But more than all of this what really reminded me, and I think probably Steve Waugh, of Curtly Ambrose was your fiery passion.
On that first tour of Australia you certainly weren’t the top wicket-taker, but your spell against Ricky Ponting in Perth was something to behold, and then when Australia toured your home country later in 2008 you were unstoppable. 15 wickets at 27 with an economy rate of 2.9 in a winning series is really something Ishant, and it seemed obvious that you would only rise in stature from there. Your ODI form was also brilliant, with good performances against Australia and Sri Lanka, but something just went wrong, and that is why I write to you now to gently enquire on your wellbeing.
Perhaps you suffer from a serious case of ‘VVS Laxman disease’? This rare and potentially career-fatal disease was introduced by your teammate V.V.S. Laxman who seems to score runs for fun against Australia, but against all other teams, who have through most of his career been far less superior than Australia, he struggles. Maybe you just need to be up against those pesky, arrogant Aussies to get your competitive fires burning? Is that the answer Ishant?
Or maybe it’s the problem of too much cricket. Although you are still young, you’ve had to bowl a lot for your country and for the Kolkota Knight Riders in the IPL. Maybe all that bowling, often on slow pitches, has worn you out. Your competitive edge has certainly been your fiery nature, and I imagine this is the first to evaporate when you feel exhausted. We might even call this the ‘Shaun Tait disease’. Shaun just can’t get his body and mind together often enough to be a force for Australia in the long run, and maybe you feel the same.
Or perhaps finally it comes down to a false dawn? Maybe you were an exceptional talent who, once batsmen knew your style, ran out of tricks? You certainly seem pedestrian now, and often have a horrid economy rate. Batsmen just seem confident against you, which would have been unimaginable after that memorable afternoon in Perth not three years ago.
All in all I fear for you Ishant. The Indian selectors have kept faith; most probably because your contemporaries such as Sreesanth and RP Singh aren’t in great touch either, but also because they too remember your potential. My advice is to take a small break, have a chat to some mentors, and re-find your fire. Perhaps the best way to do that might even be to watch some old footage of the man who you remind me of most, Curtly Ambrose, because when it came to fire he was the hottest of all.
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