Dubai: Ishant Sharma, senior Indian fast bowler and attacking lynchpin of IPL team Delhi Capitals, admits that he is revelling in his new-found confidence as a bowler over the last three years.
“People keep saying Ishant 2.0, which makes it sound like I am a robot. But the phase before 2018 was one when the pressure to perform was a lot. It gave me sleepless nights and I hardly found any joy in my bowling. My county stint with Sussex was what changed everything. It was a gruelling stint for me because I was bowling 22-23 overs in a day, batting as well and then coming back home to do the chores. It was a tough drill but somehow I enjoyed it a lot,” Ishant said during an Instagram live chat on the Delhi team’s official handle.
The results started showing when after a struggle towards the middle phase of his career, the 31-year-old emerged as a different bowler and was the highest wicket taker for India in England in the 2018 Test series. ‘‘A lot of credit should also go to Jason Gillespie who was my coach there. When I came back to India to play after that, I felt a lot free and focussed only on enjoying the present, which took off a lot of pressure from me. That change in mindset is the reason for me being an improved cricketer today.”
The likely changes in the rules of the game, in view of the concern over the use of saliva to keep shine on one side of the ball, inevitably came up as it would hurt the likes of Ishant and his tribe the most. “We know there are talks of some changes and adjustments in cricket, but I feel cricketers will have to get used to the new normal, whatever that is. The ball may not shine as per your liking if you are not allowed to use saliva or you may have to go and fetch the ball yourself during nets – but there is no option but to get used to these things,” said Ishant.
Speaking about his first season with the Delhi Capitals which saw him pick 13 wickets in as many matches, Ishant said: “I didn’t watch the IPL auction last time but I was overjoyed when I heard I had been picked up by the Delhi Capitals. I knew with Ricky (Ponting) as coach and playing for my home city, it was going to be a really nice experience. We all wanted to win the trophy, but we will go again next time we get the chance,” he said.
It was a dream spell which Ishant bowled during his international debut in the 2008 series in Perth - where the delivery with which he castled Ponting, then the Australian captain, signalled his arrival with a bang. Now his coach in Delhi, Ishant was enthusiastic to have the Australian around: “He’s (Ponting) the best coach I’ve ever met. I was very nervous when I was making a return to the IPL last season. I was almost feeling like a debutante walking into the camp the first day, but he gave me a lot of confidence since the first day I arrived at the Delhi Capitals’ camp,” said Ishant.
“He just told me, ‘You’re a senior player and you should help the youngsters. Just don’t worry about anything - you’re my first choice.’ And I think that bit of conversation really helped me,” the experienced pacer added.
Speaking about the spell when he got the better of the Australian legend, Ishant said: “People still talk and ask me about the Perth Test, and the spell I bowled to him. Later that year when Australia visited India too, I was in great form. Gary (Kirsten) was our coach then, and he told me that the Australians play only to win, which is why a performance against them, even on home soil, counts a lot and would help me get noticed. That success I had against them in 2008 is easily one of the highlights of my career.”