India registered an emphatic win against Sri Lanka in the second Test at Nagpur, winning the contest by an innings and 239 runs. India outplayed Sri Lanka in all the three departments to emerge victorious. Indian bowlers were once again impactful whereas the batsmen scored runs in heaps.
India were unfortunate to have missed out on Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami for this crucial encounter. Bhuvneshwar opted out due to personal reasons while Shami had a hip niggle. Ishant Sharma, who was released after not being a part of the playing XI in the series opener, was recalled for the Nagpur Test.
The lanky pacer sensed an opportunity and grabbed it with both the hands to leave a mark. He bowled with immense patience and control, he looked in a different rhythm altogether. Ishant is easily the most experienced seamer in the current crop of Indian bowlers. But inconsistency did not let him achieve fruitful dividends very often. He has shown occasional sparks of brilliance and has been a force to be reckoned when on song. And at Nagpur, he looked good.
While he was not a part of the Indian side, Ishant led the Delhi side in the Ranji Trophy, picking 20 wickets in four games, which helped him develop. Ishant was quoted by The Indian Express saying, “I was playing First-Class cricket and picking wickets, so I was in good rhythm and was feeling confident. Pace isn’t a problem, only wickets matter for me. The mindset change that I’ve brought in is big for me.”
Ishant also spoke about how other bowlers have fared well and deserved a chance ahead of him. He said, “The way Umesh and Shami have bowled, they deserved to get the chance before me. I think at the moment, that’s what matters. The wickets column was always empty, so I needed to outthink the batsman. That’s what I did here. Thanks to Basu sir, he’s pushing everyone hard on fitness and Virat is setting an example. It’s a pretty good competition among fast bowlers in India. We have to take wickets whenever we get the chance to perform. We have to be on our toes.”
The first Test was massively about Bhuvnehswar and Shami’s brilliance, but this game was more about Ishant founding his rhythm. Selectors have invested faith in him, time and again, and Ishant has seldom let them down. He picked five wickets in the match and delivered some fantastic spells. Although the numbers are not very glittering but speak a lot about the way Ishant has developed.
Harsha Bhogle praised Ishant for his magnificent bowling in the game. “While India will be happy with the runs from Murali Vijay, the biggest return from this game is the bowling of Ishant Sharma,” Harsha Bhogle wrote on his Twitter handle.
While India will be happy with the runs from Murali Vijay, the biggest return from this game is the bowling of Ishant Sharma
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) November 27, 2017
Virat Kohli was impressed with the way Ishant bowled and was quoted by Sportstarlive saying, “Ishant and Umesh haven’t bowled much. Playing First-Class cricket has helped them. The more number of overs they bowled it helped them. Shami was outstanding in Kolkata. Ishant was the standout bowler in this game. We would like to think when we prepare for that (South Africa tour).”
With the away tours lined up for the No. 1 Test side, Ishant’s return to form will only ease the pressure off the skipper and team management. India are all set to lock horns with South Africa in January, Ishant would be a handy option to have on the bouncy South African surfaces. There is also a possibility that Ishant might get a nod ahead of Umesh in the opening Test, to say the least.
The trio of Indian pacers (Shami, Umesh and Bhuvneshwar) are although different from each other, but not distinctively different. Ishant with his lanky stature and ability to generate bounce from the surface might be a useful bowler to go within South Africa. All the three seamers naturally bowl a bit fuller, but Ishant’s natural zone is back of a length, which might work well in South Africa. Also, it would add variation to the pace attack.
It would be interesting to see if Ishant fizzles out after this promising start or continues to weave magic with the ball? He can be a match-winner on his day and the potential is massive, but it’s time he finds consistency and converts into performance. One might argue saying that Sri Lanka have not been up to the mark and also not the toughest of the oppositions at Nagpur, but Ishant has shown some good signs.