After snaring his second five-wicket haul in home Tests, Ishant Sharma put his much-improved fast bowling down to putting a lot less pressure on himself and the wisdom that years at the top level have given him with regards to sussing out conditions.
Since the start of 2018, Ishant has bagged 62 wickets in 17 Tests. His average of 19.79 in this period is nearly 17 runs lower than the 36.55 he averaged in the period preceding that. In 2019, that average has dropped even further, to 15.85. It’s by far the lowest he has averaged across the 13 calendar years that his career has spanned.
"I think I'm enjoying my cricket now," Ishant said on Friday, 22 November, when his 5/22 helped pack off Bangladesh for 106 on the first day of day/night Test cricket in India. "Earlier, I used to put pressure on myself about performing, that I need to take wickets, that I'm only beating the batsman, a lot of things used to run on my mind. Now, I don't think too much about those things, just how to take wickets. Obviously, I’m experienced, so I can assess conditions and adjust my lengths quickly, that makes it easy."
Ishant’s resurgence hasn’t been missed by the opposition camp, with Bangladesh head coach Russell Domingo citing Ishant as a benchmark for his own team’s bowlers to improve.
"I don't want to keep comparing the two sides, but if you think of the number of Tests their pacers have played, and compare that with Ebadat's fourth Test match, we have a very inexperienced bowling line-up," he said.
"Look at the way Ishant started, and the way his career is now. It takes a bit of time for these young fast bowlers to find the length and the discipline it takes to bowl to guys like Rohit [Sharma], Virat [Kohli] or [Cheteshwar] Pujara. It is a steep learning curve at the moment."
"Earlier, I used to put pressure on myself about performing, that I need to take wickets, that I'm only beating the batsman, a lot of things used to run on my mind. Now, I don't think too much about those things."
As for his own career, Ishant has been around for well over a decade, but has for long stopped being a regular part of the limited-overs outfits. He last played a one-day international in January 2016, while he hasn’t played a T20 international in over six years. But the years put in at the international level have made him mature about how he handles disappointments.
"In some sense [it hurts], yes,” he said. “But I'm at a stage of my life where I've stopped worrying about these kind of things. I'm 31 now, I can't keep worrying now about which format my name has been picked for.
"Whether I play for India, whether I play Ranji Trophy - I just want to be playing at this point. It's a simple thing. If you desire to keep playing, you'll do well. Cricket's given us everything. If we keep cribbing about small things like these, we will never improve."
Personalise your homepage with an ICC account
News, fixtures and updates tailored to your favourite team. Never miss a moment!