Author : Sougat Chakravartty
“I think it is sad and disappointing that it gets to the stage where you have a bad game and they are calling for your head.”
– Glenn McGrath, former Australian bowler
McGrath’s statement came close on the heels of the announcement that Steve Bucknor was to stand down in the next game of the 2007-08 Border-Gavaskar Trophy after an acrimonious outing in Sydney involving two hot-headed cricketers on both sides.
But if you apply it in the context of Ishant Sharma, it would be a bit incomplete – because he has had a terrible time in the first three matches of the ongoing series against the Kangaroos.
For one who happens to be the most experienced pacer in the current crop, especially in light of the fact that Zaheer Khan is absent, the persistent wayward bowling has caused the lanky, wild-haired 24-year old to be blasted across social media platforms as well as in the press, despite skipper MS Dhoni’s backing.
He has been retained for the final four games of the series, so it is heartening to see that the powers-that-be (read: the captain) are still willing to give him that long rope. However, it remains to be seen if the rope will increase in length if Ishant continues on the path that he currently is.
In case the overwhelming outrage of the public forces a re-think, the wiry pacer, who famously troubled Ricky Ponting at Perth in 2008, will be dropped from the side in order to get his basics right.
This leads to the question that forms the basis of this article: Who will replace him?
Shami Ahmed and Jaydev Unadkat seem to be the obvious choices, but there is another bowler who has done well in recent times and has had the honour of playing alongside Dhoni in the IPL – Haryana fast bowler Mohit Mahipal Sharma.
At 5’11”, Mohit is shorter than Ishant by more than a head. But what he lacks in height, he makes up for it with his scorching pace and ability to keep things simple. He has a smooth delivery stride, unhurried, unruffled, and though he may have given the impression of struggling with his landing, his line and length have been impeccable.
The rule changes rung in by the International Cricket Council (ICC) have decidedly made life difficult for the bowlers, but Mohit is the kind of guy who can adapt quickly. During the Powerplay overs in the 2013 IPL, he was able to maintain a consistent line around the off-stump channel, and was rewarded with breakthroughs at just the right time. This is something that Ishant has struggled with of late – focusing on line and length.
The Faridabad lad’s rugged physique also allows him to clock speeds of 135-140 kph on a regular basis. Maintaining accuracy at such pace is difficult, but he has mastered it at the relatively ripe age of 25. Ishant, beset by injuries, has dropped in pace, but with it, he has also lost his accuracy. Consequently, he ends up bowling length, and is thus tonked for sixes and fours on a consistent basis towards the end overs in the shorter format.
What counts against Mohit is his lack of experience playing in the big leagues – the international stage. Sure, he has turned out in India colours on the Zimbabwe tour, and became the second Indian to win the Man of the Match award on ODI debut, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to play since then. The counter-point against this argument is that the current series would have given him the ideal platform to display his wares at the highest level, so perhaps Dhoni, Fletcher & co. missed a trick there.
In the name of experience, Ishant has been persisted with. For many, including me, it is a regressive step. If one wants to have a vision in place for the 2015 World Cup, then why not give this guy a breather and let Mohit have a go?
MSD is known for pulling rabbits out of his hat. Maybe he has something else planned for his CSK pacer. But whatever his reasons may be, Mohit, in all fairness, should replace Ishant in the bowling attack if India are to have any hopes of ending a long prevalent home jinx against the buoyant Aussies.
I, for one, would really love to see Faulkner try to take on the Haryana pacer at full tilt!