Home > Features >

Ishant Sharma: The enigma who takes key wickets

Ishant Sharma bowled with with great hostility against England at Lord's in the 2nd Test © Getty Images
Ishant Sharma bowled with great hostility against England at Lord’s in the 2nd Test © Getty Images

Ishant Sharma’s spell of seven for 74 blasted apart England in the second Test at Lord’s. It was the first time in 28 years that India won a Test match at the iconic home of cricket. Shiamak Unwalla tries to unravel the mystery that is Ishant.

There are bowlers you love, there are bowlers you hate, and there is Ishant Sharma. How does one begin to describe him? There’s the easy way: the long hair that sometimes gets in the way of his vision, teeth that dentists would dread looking at, an Adam’s apple more prominent than the one at Eden. But that’s just the superficial aspect of the man.

Ishant is a far more complex phenomenon than that. As a bowler, he has been the toast of the nation — Perth and Mohali in 2008, Kensington Oval in 2011 come to mind — and the universal subject of mockery and derision in almost equal proportion (perhaps more mocked than toasted).

However, India have persisted with him. He has been probing, accurate, fast, bouncy, aggressive, dismal, lacklustre, maddening, mindless, slow, and downright ridiculous — not necessarily in that order — over the course of his seven-year long career.

Ishant is a walking irony. He has been hailed as the leader of India’s pace attack. He has said himself, on more than one occasion, that he is not the leader of India’s pace attack. He seems to perform much better with Zaheer Khan at his side. He abused Zaheer for not fielding a ball with the agility of a hare. He made Ricky Ponting his undisputed bunny. He was taken apart by James Faulkner.

His statistics reflect as much. In 57 Tests, he has 174 wickets, at an average of 37 and a strike rate of 66. These figures are average at best. But then, Ishant is not the type of bowler who gets a boatload of wickets. No, he is at his best when he gets the measure of certain batsmen. And this is where his worth truly comes through. Ishant gets good batsmen out.

Player M No of dismissals Ave
Alastair Cook (England) 10 8 47.12
Ricky Ponting (Australia) 12 7 32.42
Michael Clarke (Australia) 15 7 26
Ian Bell (England) 10 6 10.5
Shane Watson (Australia) 8 5 22

When one thinks of Ishant’s victims, the most obvious player to come to mind would be Ricky Ponting. However, as seen above, that dubious honour goes to Alastair Cook. The other batsmen Ishant has dismissed the most often in Test cricket are Michael Clarke, Ian Bell and Shane Watson.

If one looks at his overall figures, Mahela Jayawardene — with totally eight dismissals across all formats — also makes an appearance. What this shows is that when Ishant does manage to figure out a batsman, he gets them out over and over again. And he tends to figure out batsmen with repute.

His nine-over spell at Perth to Ponting is the stuff of legend. If ever a single spell shattered a batsman’s confidence entirely, that was it. Ponting never quite had the same swagger after that; his drives were less forceful; his hitherto get-out-of-jail pull shot was now unsure.

Against Matt Prior in the second Test at Lord’s, Ishant kept asking the batsman to take him on. Prior did, once. He did it again. He was lulled into a false sense of confidence; the next pull found Murali Vijay in the deep. Prior could have played his final match for England.

Ishant is not India’s best fast bowler. He probably won’t be remembered for his pace bowling feats. But he will always remain the man who made Ponting, Cook and Clarke — if Ian Bell suffers at his hands in the next three games, his name will be added here — his bunnies.

Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014

(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Mount Maunganui

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Dhaka


South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 11, 2014  at Delhi

India won by 48 runs


India vs West Indies 4th ODI at Dharamsala


AB de Villiers speaks ahead of New Zealand ODIs

South Africa vs New Zealand 2014: 5 memorable matches

Yasir Shah: The new spinning sensation for Pakistan

Virat Kohli takes wicket with the first (0th?) ball of his T20I career

Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography — a litany of complaints with a few redeeming patches

Banning West Indian players in IPL can affect the ‘Brand value’ of the event – Will BCCI take this gamble?

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 India India vs West Indies India vs West Indies 2014 New Zealand Pakistan Salaam Cricket South Africa West Indies West Indies cancel India tour 2014 West Indies tour of India 2014 West Indies vs India West Indies vs India 2014

Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test in Dubai Preview: Motivated Pakistan look to hurt rusty Australia

Pakistan vs Australia 2014, 1st Test: Michael Clarke, Misbah-ul-Haq ready for spin challenge

WICB could face financial ramifications following legal action by BCCI

Quinton de Kock equals wicketkeeping record with six catches in South Africa vs New Zealand 1st ODI

ICC World Cricket League 2014: Associate nations confident of good show

Pakistan’s chances in ICC World Cup 2015 bleak: Mohammad Zahid

Quinton de Kock equals wicketkeeping record with six catches in South Africa vs New Zealand 1st ODI

MS Dhoni rested, Virat Kohli as captain, and other points of interest from squad for first 3 India vs Sri Lanka ODIs

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: MS Dhoni gets much-needed break ahead of Australia tour

Virat Kohli becomes fastest to 20 ODI hundreds

Fan of the Day

Gautam Singh

Gautam Singh

474 Posts | 5 Fans

Video Highlights Mohammed Yousuf drops catch after watching a girl in bikini

अभिनेत्री हुमा कुरैशी ओरिफ्लेम की ब्रांड एंबेसडर

Has Bigg Boss 8 made Karishma Tanna the most hated person?

Pranab Mukherjee returns home after visit to Norway, Finland

Revealed: First look of Amitabh Bachchan-Farhan Akhtar’s Do!

7 reasons why having sex during pregnancy is great for your health

Videocon Infinium Graphite with gesture control feature launched, priced at Rs 10,499

Rupee up 19 paise against dollar in early trade

Twitter introduces Audio Cards to listen to music directly from your timeline

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here