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It is amazing what an impact one path breaking performance can have. It was way back in 2008 that Steve Waugh called Ishant Sharma the next big thing in cricket and rated him ‘high up there’ amongst the new crop of Indian fast bowlers. Five years back, Ishant had pace, Ishant was consistent and was getting the best in the business hop around at the crease with his sheer accuracy and wicket taking ability.
Five years on, times have changed; suddenly one gets an impression that the ‘wicket-taking’ Ishant is wrapped in a closet. Some believe that the tall pacer has forgotten the art of taking wickets, while the rest believe he is one of those bowlers who showed a lot of promise, but is slowly fading away like a candle lit in a dark room. There is still a particular sect though, that believes in Ishant Sharma and feels he is genuinely India’s brightest prospects in the fast bowling department.
Ishant has a lot working in his favour. For starters he is just 24 years old, almost a regular in the Indian whites and now he shares his space with two of the most exciting fast bowlers in world cricket wherein each day is like a learning experience. In this exclusive chat with IPLT20.com, the fast bowler talks about the “matured Ishant” , an Ishant who does not care about his critics and an Ishant with tremendous self confidence.
From 2008 to 2013, is Ishant Sharma a different bowler?
I am the same bowler. I haven’t changed at all. I love to be aggressive on the field and look at the positives in my game. I was always ready for the challenge five years back and I still am. I have tremendous self confidence in myself which has never faded away since 2008. I am a more matured bowler now. I know about my body well, and I am more matured when it comes to fitness, preparations and mindset.
In the previous Test series against Australia, you had just seven wickets to your name. Disappointed?
I don’t worry when I go wicket-less. I have taken wickets whenever I have got an opportunity. We all know that the wickets in the India-Australia Test series were spinner friendly where I got very little to bowl. In the limited opportunities I got to bowl, I took wickets. That is what I look to doing in the future, Every time I have the ball in my hands representing India!
But the question here is, Ishant is 51 Test matches old, shouldn’t he have taken a lot more wickets in that span of time?
Look, after playing 50 Test matches for your country, no one wants to change the way you bowl. Only the mindset has to be changed. Waqar Younis, our bowling consultant in the IPL asked me to believe in myself and said, “Ishant if you are bowling to a batsman of high caliber, tell yourself that you are a big bowler for your country as well. Take pride in your name, take pride in how you are bowling to him and take pride in the skill and ability that you have as a bowler.” These are words that have stuck in my mind and I look forward to implement it in my bowling.
As you said, Waqar Younis showed a lot of keenness to work with you, what aspect of your bowling has he worked on?
The good thing about someone like a Waqar, who is a legend of the game, is that he has never wanted me to change anything in my bowling. Yes, there are certain minor changes like line and length that he has asked me to work on. Apart from that he hasn’t asked me to bring about any drastic changes in my bowling.
You obviously would have a lot to learn from Waqar and Dale Steyn, your SRH team mate.
Being amongst Dale and Waqar in the side, obviously for me as you said is a great learning curve. There is a lot you can learn from the best fast bowler in the world and one of the best fast bowlers in an era gone by. It is great to have them in the dressing room. Little advices on how to bowl and where to bowl makes a lot of difference.
How do you plan to get more consistent with respect to line and length?
Consistency depends on confidence. It has nothing to do with how you are bowling, if you are going to be confident about yourself and confident about the skills you hone, the consistency will come on its own.
Your detractors say you have lost your wicket taking abilities. How do you react to that?
I do not need to prove anything to anyone. I am playing for my country and have picked up wickets in India and abroad. Everyone has their own opinion. My job is to pick wickets for India whenever I have the ball in my hand.
Will we see you bowling consistently at 140kmph?
I am trying my level best to bowl 140 plus consistently. That is my aim. I do not want to sacrifice pace. I want to keep coming hard at the batsmen.”
What is the mindset that you go into before any game?
Whenever I am on the field, I look to go out there and enjoy the game. I accept the challenge that is thrown at me and work towards coming out trumps at the end of it. Till the time the team wins and I contribute towards the team’s success I am a happy man.
A word for your fans, who have backed you come what may.
My fans need to believe in me that I am going to do well whenever I go out there to bowl. I am sure I will do well in whatever format of cricket I play for which I am working hard as I was doing before. I am working much harder this time.
Remember that Irish guy, with glittering blue eyes? Eyes that lit up the moment it saw an opportunity to score or catch a ball? Yes, that Irish guy who later on went on to don the England jersey and at the moment is basking in the purples of KKR in IPL 2013?
Yes, Eoin Morgan got a packed Eden Gardens to its feet with an array of strokes that got even the opposition’s appreciation. Improvisation, proper cricketing strokes and the free flow of the bat; Morgan displayed it all in his 21 ball 47 that helped the Knights get to a 180-plus score.
Morgan in his casual self, bearing and welcoming smile spoke exclusively to IPLT20.com after the match. In his chat, he opens up about his rich vein of form, his action packed innings of 47 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad and his love for the people of Kolkata and the Eden Gardens.
You seem to have hit a purple patch for the Knights this season.
I would not quite call it a purple patch, but I think I am striking it quite well and I am cashing in which is quite nice. It was great to get in there and get some shots going. We were in a pretty similar situation last year where we lost two games on the trot and came back stronger. Such was the case today as well, we got a win under our belt and we look to get the momentum going in the games to come.
There seems to be a plan of giving you more games this year than the previous years.
Obviously last year, trying to get into a winning side was very difficult. I hope I get to play as many games as possible for KKR this year. Hopefully I can continue to score in the opportunities I get and look to contribute towards the side’s success.
Was it a plan to get you ahead of a Yusuf Pathan after the fall of Gambhir’s wicket?
Yes it was a plan and we had thought about it in our meets. We had this thing in our mind to go on with the left hand-right hand combination which has worked for us and looked to do the same in this game as well. It worked quite fine today and hopefully we will continue to execute our plans to good effect.
What was the talk between Jacques Kallis and you when some quick runs were the need of the hour?
Jacques is very calm at the crease and I plan to keep it that way as well, which is why we had a lot of sensible talks in the middle. We were quite smart in what we did and it managed to come off which was quite nice. Over number 18, you got the better of Thisara Perera scoring 20 runs. How do you plan such an assault?
It was one of those occasions were the bowler sort of missed his lengths and I got my way. It can happen especially here in a short boundary with the ball coming on to the bat too well. I was glad I could manage to clear the ropes on a few occasions.
Brilliant energy on the field, stunning catches taken today by the Knights, which one was your favorite?
The fielding is what we emphasize in our training sessions were we can stop maybe ten or fifteen runs. Our fielding coach, Trevor Penny has been instrumental in encouraging us and helping us to improve our skills all the time. My favorite was Yusuf Pathan’s catch. He had to jump his full length at the boundary ropes and it was great to see him take a stunner.
How has Kolkata treated you? How is it playing in front of a packed Eden Gardens?
The people of Kolkata have been hospitable. The love and affection you get from the Kolkata fans is absolutely brilliant. The game today was a sell out and to perform at the iconic Eden Gardens is a great feeling. I would rate the Eden Gardens in my top three grounds in the world. I love playing here and love being a part of the KKR.