Ishant Sharma should have been picked for CB Series: Eric Simmons

Eric Simons will be replaced by Joe Dawes as India’s bowling coach Getty Images

By Ashish Shukla

Brisbane: Feb 17, 2012

Outgoing bowling coach Eric Simmons believes fast bowler Ishant Sharma is “ready for one-day cricket” and should have been a part of the Indian squad in the ongoing Commonwealth Bank tri-series in Australia.

Simmons, who will be replaced by former Queensland pacer Joe Dawes as India’s bowling coach after the ongoing tri-series, said Ishant was “unlucky” during the four-Test Test series.

“I believe the Australians were pleased he (Ishant) wasn’t involved in one-day series. He bowled so well, he was the one who troubled them the most in Tests. I am not part of selection process but I think he’s ready for one-day cricket,” said Simmons, who took pains to emphasise that he wasn’t sacked from his current position.

The South African said his contract with the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI), after two extensions since the World Cup last year, has simply expired.

Despite being a regular in India’s Test squad, Ishant has played only six ODIs in the last two years.

As a matter of fact, Ishant hasn’t done too badly in the 47 ODIs he had played, picking up 64 wickets at 32.13. But ironically, the Indian selectors have continued to ignore him for the 50-over format.

“He has to be one of the unluckiest bowlers. There were so many edges which went between (VVS) Laxman and (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni, a drop in front; one sliced over slips for the amount of wicket-taking deliveries he bowled.

“I hope he is not discouraged and Indian cricket sticks with him. There’s an incredible cricketer and a clever bowler in him,” said Simmons about Ishant, who has claimed 133 wickets at 37.87 in 45 Tests.

Interestingly, there is also a feeling among a few cricket pundits that Ishant does not have the knack of taking wickets, but Simmons has his own opinion on the matter.

“I saw him in the first series with South Africa. In Kolkata he bowled brilliantly but didn’t get rewards. And I could see the frustration he had.

“He is like like Morne Morkel (of South Africa), who bowls well but doesn’t take wickets as we would expect him to do,” said Simmons.

“We did the maths and found the length in Australia was a good 16-18 inches fuller than he used to bowl. We did work on it to get that length right. It’s not always easy. He’s so tall and has a different trajectory. It’s a long process and learning curve for a young bowler,” he said.

“He was once bowling in 130-133kmph and now his average is 140-plus. As an attack, we were actually averaging more than Australians and it’s quite unusual for Indian attack,” he added.

The Indian attack, besides Ishant, consisted of Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav and R Vinay Kumar in the Test series, but it was young Yadav who caught Simmons attention most.

“He (Yadav) bowls outswing at 145-plus speed. He is an incredible athlete, has great strength and stamina. The batsmen actually find him 150kmph because of his rhythmical and easy action. He’s one of the most exciting young fast bowler in the world today,” he said.

“Vinay Kumar works hardest than anyone else. There are guys with natural skills and then there are those with hard work ethics. He always seems to enjoy, always working on his wrist position, batting and fielding,” Simmons said.

“Zaheer Khan has good craft and has ability to teach them (the youngsters). He has worked really and wants to be available as often as possible. He is mentally keen to do well and is excited about it. As long as he stays motivated and puts that effort physically, he should be around,” he said.

One of Simmons’ major disappointment has been the falling away of S Sreesanth, whom he rates incredibly talented.

“The way he bowled to the Australians in Bangalore when the ball was reversing, I told him there may be one or two bowlers in the world who could do it. He has phenomenal skills,” the South African said.

“Unfortunately, the batsmen of today and the way the game has evolved, it’s all about consistency. You just can’t bowl only 3-4 good balls in the over.

“(Ben) Hilfenhaus has kept it so simple and is successful. It’s about executing your plans well,” Simmons added.

Simmons gave an insight as to why a lot of Indian bowlers are not as patient abroad as they ought to be.

“The bowlers have to rely on innovations and variations as there is not much in wickets in India. But abroad it’s just about being patient and sticking to game plans. These are the lessons we have to learn.”

Asked about the return of left-arm pacer R P Singh from nowhere for the Oval Test and subsequent ODI series in England last year even when Munaf Patel was travelling with the team, Simmons said, “We needed to find someone who was different. We didn’t have anyone with 145-plus (speed).

“It was looking exactly the same with batsmen who didn’t have to change the angle and do differently. So it went in RP’s favour.”

“It was a pity that Munaf wasn’t played. He played a major role in the World Cup success. He allowed other players to play a larger role,” he said.

Simmons also reflected on the achievements and disappointments of his two-year stint with the Indian team.

“We had this great hope of learning from England. We are disappointed in the way both England and Australia have gone. We are capable of much better. There were key moments but we just couldn’t drive home the advantage and be in a winning position.

“I would have also liked guys like Ishant to move forward and take more five-wicket hauls. I would have loved them to have more rewards than they have had.”

Simmons’ next coaching assignment is with the Delhi Daredevils team in the upcoming IPL, but he hasn’t thought much about his long-term plans.

“I will be with Delhi Daredevils. I have some business in Cape Town and I would go back to (it) post IPL. I have been involved in various places but there’s no decision yet,” he said.

“Two years with the Indian team has improved my understanding as a person. It’s been an enriching experience and hopefully I have left some mark on the players.” (PTI)