Unrewarding phase will mould luckless Ishant into a tough competitor

Ishant Sharma (left) is the only bowler to have troubled the Australian batsmen consistently right through the series. Yet the wickets column does not reflect the hard work and perseverance of this speedster © Getty Images

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

Eight years ago, India notched up a fine victory at Adelaide and managed to silence critics who claimed that the side was susceptible playing away from home. They displayed tremendous grit before settling for a draw four years ago at the very same venue. This time around, the Indian side has looked defeated even before the end of the first day’s play. Not even their recent records at Adelaide have managed to inspire this despondent looking Indian side. One gets the feeling that they are just content in going through the motions and waiting for the nightmare to end.

 

During recent times, it has been a surprise to see how often India has failed to capitalise on the impetus obtained after a good start. It was a tactful move by stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag to introduce Ravichandran Ashwin early into the attack, but it’s beyond explanation why he chose to set defensive fields to the likes of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, especially after having Australia on the mat at 84 for three. This only goes to show that India hasn’t learnt from its mistakes, considering the fact that it paid a heavy price for employing similar tactics during the Sydney Test which enabled the same duo of Ponting and Clarke to score heavily after the Australians were reeling at 37 for three.

 

It wouldn’t be fair to say that the Indian bowlers haven’t tried. Zaheer Khan did what was expected of him and got rid of the dangerous David Warner quickly. Ashwin struck twice before lunch and looked all set to inflict more damage later. Ishant Sharma bowled his heart out but hasn’t managed to add anything to the column that matters the most. Umesh Yadav was alarmingly costly, but one can understand such spells when a bowler is still learning the nuances of Test cricket.

 

However, the main loophole appears to be in the defensive field-setting and also the fielding. Ian Chappell rightly pointed when he said, “The fielders haven’t backed the bowlers at all. They’ve failed to prevent easy runs and have sometimes managed to give away more than what was available.” When the fielding isn’t up to the mark, it is difficult to sustain the pressure created on the opposition by the bowlers.

 

Ishant Sharma is one bowler who must be feeling hard done-by despite creating this pressure on a regular basis. He’s the only bowler to have troubled the Australian batsmen consistently right throughout the series and yet the wickets column do not reflect the hard work and perseverance of this speedster. He has managed to tighten things up and contain the run-flow; yet, the wickets somehow continue to elude him. Unfortunately, none of the remaining bowlers have managed to pick wickets from one end consistently to complement Ishant’s tight spells from the other.

 

Tough lessons for Ishant

 

Nevertheless, this unrewarding phase in Ishant’s career is only going to mould him into a tougher competitor. He has played 45 Tests but must realise that he still has a lot of scope for improvement and turn into a seasoned campaigner, considering that he is just 23 years old. He mustn’t be disheartened for not striking consistently enough. He must also note that his efforts are being recognised and that there will be days when he will be much more successful albeit performing half as good as now. For someone who has gained truckloads of experience at such a young age, it could augur well for the future of Indian cricket if the selectors continue to have patience and show faith in him. Ishant is the youngest among the bowlers in this current Indian side but is also the most experienced one after Zaheer Khan.

 

Questioning his position in the squad after the Perth Test was uncalled for. Bowling has been India’s weakness, but one must realise that the current crop of bowlers is the best India has at the moment. All these bowlers have enormous potential and are bound to grow and perform more efficiently as time progresses.  Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Ravichandran Ashwin and Varun Aaron are all skilled bowlers and will prove to be a thorn in the flesh of the opposition sooner than later. Moreover, India’s problem in the last two overseas series has predominantly been the batting. The batting department has repeatedly failed to provide cushion and confidence to the bowling unit.

 

Looking at the last two Tests played between India and Australia at the Adelaide Oval, one can infer that the venue has always been a batsman’s paradise. Both teams have scored over 500 runs in their first innings on both occasions, and Australia look all set to repeat that feat in this Test as well. As mentioned earlier, Indiamanaged to win in 2003 and draw in 2008 despite Australia’s brilliance in the first innings. However, it will be interesting to see how India approaches this match from here. Honestly, looking at India’s horrendous performance in the last seven overseas Tests, there appears to be a very bleak chance of a fightback. Nevertheless, stranger things have happened in cricket.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)