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Ishant Sharma needs a Zaheer Khan-like revival to his Test career

Ishant Sharma
Ishant Sharma’s Test form since 2008 has been poor © Getty Images

Ishant Sharma averages 38.81 for his 149 wickets in 53 Tests. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks at Ishant’s inconsistent run.

When your strike bowler averages 38.81 across 53 Test matches, you’ve got to be worried. But, how does one handle a bowler who can be sublime at best and absolutely mediocre at his worst? That is Ishant Sharma dilemma before the Indian team management, as they gear up for the tour to New Zealand. While Ishant has been around for more than six years, his record in Test cricket is far from impressive and his career graph makes for a very erratic reading. Then, why do India keep selecting the right-arm pacer?

On his day, Ishant is almost unplayable. He pitches it in the right areas and can make the ball climb at an awkward height. However, how often have we seen it in recent times? Not as frequent as one would have thought in 2008. On most other days, he gets hit for runs and bowls on a predictable channel. Thus, the batsmen have no problems as such while dispatching him to the boundary. In fact, his pace has dropped when compared to those seriously quick deliveries he bowled on his first tour to Australia. He rarely touches the same heights these days.

It has been a struggle for Ishant to maintain consistency and the statistics reflect the tale perfectly. Here is his year-wise record since he burst onto the scene:

Year

M

W

Ave

5WI

10WM

2007

2

6

31.5

1

0

2008

13

38

31.6

0

0

2009

4

10

46.9

0

0

2010

11

33

37.57

0

0

2011

12

43

36.69

2

1

2012

5

7

75.57

0

0

2013

6

12

48.16

0

0

One can see a drastic drop in standards over the years, as Ishant has averaged over 35 since the first two years of his career. To top it all, his wickets have come in bursts and make his average look a little better than what they actually might have been. For example, in 2011, he took 22 wickets in the three-match series in the Caribbean. He followed that up with another nine in the first two Tests of the England tour. Take that away and you are left with only 12 wickets in seven Tests.

Let us also take the example of the recent tour to South Africa. In a microcosm, it mirrored his struggles at large. In the first innings at Johannesburg, he looked in great touch and was the man who plotted South Africa’s downfall. However, in the second innings, he rarely looked threatening and it was Mohammed Shami who caused more problems. Then, came the Durban Test and he failed to pick up a wicket.

Here is a look at his stats after the Nottingham Test against England in 2011. That is where the decline commenced:

M

W

Ave

5WI

10WM

17

28

63.96

0

0

Before the last two Tests against Australia and the South Africa tour, these figures would have shown you only 17 wickets in 13 Tests. The average is very shocking and it has been a prolonged struggle. Those timely bursts of wickets have kept him in the side with selectors backing him to come good, but that promise doesn’t materialise in the long run. He does deliver the odd good spell, but then struggles for a long time.

Ishant is no longer a junior bowler. In fact, with 53 Test behind him, he should have been the one leading the attack and taking the pressure off Zaheer Khan. Instead, India is more reliant on a four-Test old Shami to deliver. The team management has to give Ishant an ultimatum, as he needs to find his consistency or else perish. The odd spell may have saved him until now, but may not do so in the future.

In his first 42 Tests, Zaheer averaged 36.35 for his 121 wickets. He was then left-out and rejuvenated his career by with a county stint. Ishant can take heart from this detail, as he needs a revival with sustained bursts of wickets.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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