Both Ishant Sharma (left) and Steven Finn have struggled for confidence and form in recent times © Getty Images
While the lanky pacer, Ishant Sharma bears the brunt of leaking runs despite continuous backing from captain MS Dhoni and selectors, Abhijit Banare looks at whether things could have been handled in a better manner.
During the post match presentation after the second One-Day International (ODI) between New Zealand and India at Seddon Park, Hamilton, MS Dhoni praised Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for their performance during the death overs. However, as expected, Ishant Sharma continues to be a headache for the Indian skipper. The pacer has shown no signs of even remotely improving and instead, has only gone from bad to worse. It’s not just the critics, but the fans too are coming up with funny tweets and comparisons to ridicule the pacer. But very little has come out on what really is the reason behind his embarrassing performances match after match.
Without getting in to the complexities of his performance, spells and selections, let’s thinks of some basic arguments. Ishant, by virtue of playing for India for more than five years now, in view of the selectors is considered as the leading pacer. But, after some impressive performances in Australia in 2008 series, it has been a bumpy ride with no clear direction. He touched the nadir in 2013 after being smashed by James Faulkner. The selectors surprised everyone by still taking him to South Africa, where except for one notable outing in the Tests with him testing the South African batsmen consistently, he was below par. Still the selectors chose to plump for the pacer for the tour of New Zealand.
As in South Africa and New Zealand, conditions suit quickies, pacers are expected to perform much better than they do in India. Still Ishant hasn’t been able to deliver. It is unlikely that selectors would have completely ignored his poor showing or Indian bowling, Joe Dawes wouldn’t have tried to work on Ishant’s flaws. Yet, at the end of the day, the results have not been up to the mark. In India, flopping miserably in the international arena means being turned into a laughing stock. In fact, when the runs or wickets dry up, it becomes a matter of salvaging pride rather than focusing on what has gone wrong.
Is Ishant having a psychological issue to deal with? And even if he does, is there any mechanism where this can be dealt without being ridiculed by media? The pacer might be going through what Steven Finn of England has been in recent times. It may not necessarily be a serious issue like Jonathan Trott faces, but players do need a break which can help in dealing with such issues. They can still run in hard and deliver for the team. But many times, it is all in the mind, and one should have clarity of thought to perform. The England management was proactive in dealing with a pacer like Finn which doesn’t seem to be the case with Ishant, as he is playing match after match and getting hit all over the park.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had absolutely no hesitation in sending back Finn to work upon his technical aspects and hopefully, comeback as an improved bowler. Having seen enough of Ishant’s poor performances, will the Indian team management consider sending back Ishant too? Do they have faith in him to send him back and be sure of him returning as an improved bowler? Maybe it can turn out to be a scenario where Ishant is sent back home and is replaced by another makeshift pacer. And when Ishant is again fit and firing, he won’t be considered for selection. England bowling coach, David Saker has spoken openly about Finn being part of England’s future plans, and they will wait for him to sort out his issues. Such reassurance will go a long way when a player is going through a rough patch.
Considering that he emerged as one of the few tall pacers who could succeed on any wicket, Ishant has failed to live up to the promise, but whether the team management and board will back him by giving him a much needed break is something to watch out for.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)