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The Rediff Special/Haresh Pandya
Ishant Sharma: At 18, fast and flitting
June 15, 2007
Delhi's teen sensation Ishant Sharma, who recently made his Test debut in Bangladesh after Munaf Patel [Images] sustained yet another injury, is one of the many promising Indian speedsters spoken of highly by those who know pace bowling inside out, men qualified enough to comment on its practitioners.
The selectors have shown full faith in his ability and selected him for the Test series in England [Images], too, where a cricketer, whether he is a batsman or bowler, is truly tested because of its usually cold and unpredictable weather and somewhat greener but slower pitches.
Doubtless, the England tour is going to be a learning experience for this gangling quickie, who has already built a reputation for himself for bowling marathon spells without getting tired.
The 6ft 4in (192 cm) tall Ishant has lovely high arm action, smooth run-up and attractive follow-through. The right-hander, who became India's 255th Test cricketer, is obviously very fast and capable of generating extra pace on green-tops.
He has a deadly, deceptive bouncer, which he is shrewd enough to use judiciously. He tends to pitch the ball very short a times and captures the batsman by surprise.
Those who follow the bizarre things that keep taking place in Indian cricket from time to time must be aware that Ishant came agonisingly close to representing the country when he was a strong contender to replace the injured Munaf Patel in the third and final Test in South Africa late last year.
The Indian team management had sent an SOS for Ishant, who came to know about it when he was busy playing a Ranji Trophy super-league match (Group A) for Delhi against Saurashtra at Rajkot.
All arrangements were made for him to board the first available flight to South Africa when the chairman of selectors issued a statement from Durban to the effect that the decision to send the Delhi lad as a replacement was changed.
"Initially, he was being considered to be drafted into the Indian squad. However, considering his domestic schedule, it has now been decided not to have him fly down to Cape Town and instead allow him to concentrate on domestic first-class matches," said Vengsarkar.
The frustration on Ishant's face was quite visible when he was informed about the decision.
"I'm terribly disappointed. But such things happen, I think. As the chairman of selectors has said, I'll concentrate on domestic cricket and stake my claims to play for the country," he told the mediamen in Rajkot.
But former India opener and Delhi's coach, Chetan Chauhan, took the matter seriously and expressed his displeasure in no uncertain terms.
"Is this a way to treat a promising young cricketer? How can the BCCI and its officials be so careless, so irresponsible?" asked a furious Chauhan.
Nicknamed 'lamboo' for being so towering, Ishant was born in Delhi on September 2, 1988. His father is a small businessman and runs an air-conditioner repair shop in Delhi. Ishant studies in the 12th standard at Ganga International School, Delhi.
He began playing serious cricket from his early teens and is one of the most outstanding junior cricketers in recent years. He toured England with the India Under-19s in 2006 and Pakistan in 2006�07. He played three youth Tests and six youth One-day Internationals for the country.
After consistently impressing at the junior level, Ishant found his way into the Delhi side in 2005-06 and celebrated his first-class debut with four wickets. He was not less impressive in his very first one-day match either -- for Delhi against Jammu and Kashmir [Images] at the Ferozeshah Kotla on February 11, 2006 .
His captain, Mithun Manhas, tossed the ball to him for the 11th over and he responded by dismissing the openers, Arshad Bhatt and Fayaz Nazari, who put on 46 runs for the first wicket. He later dismissed Mayank Goswami and Shashi Kumar to finish with 4 for 34.
He had his first full Ranji Trophy season in 2006-07 and bowled many a lively spell, parading his rich talent against some of the best teams.
The youngster ripped through the Baroda line-up on the first day of the Ranji Trophy Super League match at Delhi last December, claiming his maiden five-wicket haul -- 5 for 35 --, to be precise.
He dismissed the first four batsmen in the morning session itself. At lunch his combined figures in first two spells read: 11-6-11-4. His final figures were 23-9-35-5. It was only his third first-class game.
With 29 wickets in the season, Ishant is one of the leading bowlers on India's first-class scene. In almost every match he bowled well and won rich encomia from the experts who witnessed his splendid performances.
Ishant is very, very young and has still a lot to learn and improve. But he got the break at the right time. He may not get too many opportunities in England but his cricket is bound to blossom in the inspiring company of some of his illustrious teammates.
However, it remains to be seen how long the selectors keep their confidence in him. They have already begun toying with the still budding careers of the likes of R P Singh and V R V Singh. Even with Irfan Khan Pathan, for that matter!
It is up to Ishant to make the most of his chances, whenever he gets them, and cement his place in Team India. But it will surely not be that easy irrespective of his super skills. The ball, as they say, is in Ishant's court.