Eng v Ind

Published on September 11th, 2018 | by Guest Writer

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The silent rise of Ishant Sharma

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“However, it must be remembered here that Ishant has played 11 of his 31 Tests over this period at home on pitches mostly designed for spinners. Three of the remaining Tests were in Sri Lanka and one in Bangladesh, accounting for almost half his career over this period”

It is easy to dismiss Ishant Sharma. He may have 256 Test wickets, but his bowling average (34.73) is the second-worst with a 200-wicket cut-off and the worst among fast bowlers. His career has already spanned over eleven years, and not for once across this period has he looked the spearhead of the Indian pace attack.

The one problem we often encounter while dealing with numbers is that we do not dissect deep into them. Ishant’s numbers obviously look ordinary as a whole, he has shown significant improvement over time.

The Lord’s Test of 2014, where Ishant demolished England in the fourth innings with 7/74, was the turning point of his career. Since that Test, he has had 89 wickets at 29.01 – the best for an Indian fast bowler with a 50-wicket cut-off.

 

Pacers since 2014 Lord’s Test (75+ wickets)
Player Tests Wickets Average
Anderson 48 204 20.43
Rabada 32 151 21.71
Philander 31 93 22.55
Morkel 29 113 23.15
Wagner 21 94 24.96
Starc 31 141 26.59
Broad 53 184 26.84
Hazlewood 40 151 26.84
Boult 29 124 28.13
Gabriel 30 94 28.39
Ishant 31 89 29.01
Holder 33 79 29.46
Shami 28 97 29.67
Southee 26 97 32.07
Stokes 41 94 32.32
Lakmal 29 75 36.00

However, it must be remembered here that Ishant has played 11 of his 31 Tests over this period at home on pitches mostly designed for spinners. Three of the remaining Tests were in Sri Lanka and one in Bangladesh, accounting for almost half his career over this period.

Surely we need to make some allowance for performances outside Asia. How have fast bowlers across the world fared outside Asia over this period?

 

Pacers outside Asia since 2014 Lord’s Test (50+ wickets)
Player Tests Wickets Average
Anderson 42 187 20.05
Rabada 27 141 21.11
Philander 26 85 21.72
Morkel 23 98 22.65
Wagner 19 89 24.16
Hazlewood 32 135 25.83
Broad 46 167 26.68
Gabriel 26 83 26.93
Boult 23 106 27.32
Ishant 16 54 27.94
Starc 25 110 28.11
Roach 20 61 29.65
Woakes 20 65 30.20
Holder 28 67 30.56
Southee 23 92 31.02
Shami 17 60 32.28
Stokes 31 70 33.90

You see the point? Ishant and Shami are the only Asians on the list, and Ishant’s numbers are superior to Shami’s by some distance.

Do note the names above Ishant. All of them belong to fast bowlers bred on wickets conducive to seam bowling, and their numbers are bolstered by home performances. Gabriel’s rise has been due to the recent West Indian trend of green pitches at home, while Hazlewood is the only Australian to have done better than Ishant.

But what about England, where Ishant has played 7 of his 16 outside-Asia Tests over this period?

 

Overseas pacers in England since 2014 Lord’s Test (15+ wickets)
Player Tests Wickets Average
Ishant 7 29 23.03
Hazlewood 4 16 25.75
Morkel 4 19 26.36
Rabada 3 16 28.43
Starc 5 18 30.50
Amir 6 19 34.63
Johnson 5 15 34.93
Wahab 6 18 39.27
Shami 7 19 45.26

The general perception is that Shami is the greater threat of the two. While this summer has altered things, the change had started in 2014. In fact, Ishant has been the best of the Indians – even if there is no wicket cut-off.

 

Indian pacers in England since 2014 Lord’s Test
Player Tests Wickets Average
Ishant 7 29 23.03
Pandya 4 10 24.70
Umesh 1 3 25.33
Bumrah 3 14 25.92
Bhuvneshwar 4 14 30.28
Shami 7 19 45.26
Aaron 2 5 50.00
Pankaj 2 2 146.00
Binny 2

In fact, the career graph for Ishant looks significantly upwards since that Lord’s Test.

 

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