Back from yet another injury lay-off, Ishant Sharma is not about to cut down on speed and is confident his body can withstand all three formats. He spoke to Cricketnext about career graph, his battle with injuries, how speed is important and the health of Indian fast bowling.
What is the status of your ankle injury? Have you recovered completely?
I went through the ankle surgery in March and took some time off to recuperate. Now, I'm completely fit and have started bowling. Recently, I participated in the Moin-ul-Dowla tournament, playing for DDCA, and felt good about my rhythm and fitness.
Will you be available for selection when England tour India for the Test series?
Yes, definitely. The six-month sabbatical has whetted my appetite and I’m looking forward to get back to international cricket. The recuperation period gave me the time to reflect on my game and improve as a bowler. I'm fitter and better than ever.
How was the period when you were injured and recovering? Did you feel dispirited?
Injuries are a part of a cricketer's, and especially a fast bowler's, career. No cricketer wants to be injured and sit out but it is important to come to terms to the fact and take it in your stride. I'm a positive person and I looked at it as an opportunity to evaluate myself. I learned a lot about my body, my fitness levels, my bowling - strengths and weakness. When you're away from the game for some time you could have a hard look at yourself and analyze things objectively. Fitness is paramount factor for a fast bowler. I think fast bowling is 70 percent fitness and 30 percent skills.
Last year, you did exceedingly well in the West Indies - emerging as the highest wicket-taker in the Test series with 22 scalps - but your form dipped alarmingly in the subsequent tours to England and Australia…
Sometimes you don't get rewards even when you bowl well. I'm not making an excuse but I really believe that I didn't bowl badly in Australia, even though I didn't bag as many wickets as I would have liked to. Statistics don't always tell the true picture. Apart from Sydney, our bowling was fairly good. Adelaide was a flat track but in Melbourne and Perth, our bowlers put up a fairly good show.
A lot of former cricketers and analysts felt that you were unlucky in Australia while few critics said that you need to learn to pick up wickets. What according to you was missing in your bowling? Perhaps a fuller length would have made the difference? You performed remarkably well when you went to Australia in 2007-2008.
I adjust my length according to the pitch and batsman. I gave my best in all the matches I played but somehow wickets eluded me. Some things are not in my hand. I have fond memories of 2007-2008 Australia and would have loved to pick up bucketful of wickets this time but unfortunately it didn't happen.
Right from the time you made your debut, you were looked upon as the future spearhead of India’s fast bowling. After 45 Test matches, isn't it time to step up and take the baton?
Of course. I'm geared up for the new season and prepared to take on the challenge. With experience, I've become more mature and a far better bowler than what I was at the age of 19. I've added more ammunition to my bowling armoury, and the age and fitness are on my side. I take great pride in playing for India and would like to win as many matches as I can for my country.
When you started your career, your consistently bowled around 145-148 kph. Your speed declined a bit in last year. How will we see Ishant approaching his bowling after injury? Would you cut down the speed?
Pace is one of my strongest suits. There's no way I'll compromise on it. I'm 24 and don't have any niggles so I don't feel the need to cut down the speed. I'm young and like to steam in. But one must understand that speed alone is not enough. There are many factors which are essential to become a well-rounded fast bowler.
Are you willing to give up one format to prolong your international career?
It would be a sacrilege to even need to think on these lines at present. I'm not in the twilight of my career neither do I have grave fitness issues. My body can withstand the rigours of all three formats and at this point I wish to represent my country in every match. I'm enjoying playing in all three formats and striving to do well in each of them.
Do you think Zaheer Khan has more to offer to Indian cricket? His fitness and form have dwindled drastically over the last one year and age isn't his watchword either.
It would be wrong to write Zaheer bhai off. He's a brilliant bowler and playing cricket for India for 12 years. He has served the country with distinction and I learned a lot from him. He was very encouraging when I made my debut and made me feel comfortable. I think he still has a lot of cricket left in him.
What is your take on contemporaries like Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav? How similar and different are you from each other?
We share a warm rapport and discuss a lot about bowling. We all are different bowlers. I hit the deck and extract bounce while Umesh is primarily a swing bowler. Varun's forte is seam. All three of us are enthusiastic guys who are consumed by the desire to do well for the country.
How do you find India's bowling coach, Joe Dawes?
Dawes is a nice guy, very approachable and accessible to all players. We discussed about our bowling at length and he chipped in some neat tips. He works individually on each player and is very efficient at his job.