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'Ishant has lost everything: Pace, swing, bounce'

Last updated on: March 12, 2014 11:27 IST

'Ishant has lost everything: Pace, swing, bounce'

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Bikash Mohapatra

'Ishant was good early on in his career, but his graph went down.'

'He picks six wickets in one innings, but can't pick even one in the next.'

Former India players assess the pacer in conversation with Rediff.com's Bikash Mohapatra.

58.18, 67.40, 90.20, 42.25, 37.86, 62.40, 25.13

The sequence of numbers above is Ishant Sharma's bowling average in the last seven series he featured in.

It is not just about the numbers; it is also about the impact.

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Image: Ishant Sharma
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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'Ishant has lost everything: Pace, swing, bounce'

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Bikash Mohapatra

On the recent tour of New Zealand, Ishant was among the wickets (15) and had his best bowling average in recent times (25.13).

"His performance in New Zealand surprised me," says former Test opener Anshuman Gaekwad.

"He picks six wickets in one innings (six for 51 in the first innings of the second Test at Wellington() but can't pick up even one (0-164) in the next," says the former India coach, adding, "It can't be such a drastic change of fortunes."

"I understand it is not possible to take six wickets in every innings," says Gaekwad who was pummelled by the West Indian pace attack in the infamous 1976 Sabina Park Test, "but you expect at least a couple of wickets from your lead bowler in every match he bowls."

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Image: Ishant Sharma
Photographs: Paul Kane/Getty Images

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'Ishant has lost everything: Pace, swing, bounce'

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Bikash Mohapatra

Consistency hasn't been Ishant's forte.

Since the tour of the Caribbean in 2011, his last successful series overall -- where he picked up 22 wickets in three Tests (Average: 16.86) -- the 25 year old has struggled to maintain form.

If one divides Ishant's seven-year career into two halves, it is clear that the first half represented the best phase -- one that translated 112 of his 164 Test wickets.

"Ishant was good early on in his career," says Manoj Prabhakar, a keen observer of the Delhi player's career.

"But his graph went down. He has since lost everything: Pace, swing, bounce."

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Image: Ishant Sharma bowls as coach Duncan Fletcher watches during a Team India nets session.
Photographs: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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'Ishant has lost everything: Pace, swing, bounce'

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Bikash Mohapatra

The loss of pace has hurt Ishant the most.

The bowler burst on the scene with a five-wicket haul against Pakistan in Bangalore in 2007 and in the subsequent series Down Under had then Australian captain Ricky Ponting in trouble.

But with reduced pace and an inconsistent line, Ishant hasn't had the kind of impact in recent Tests. His results in the game's shorter formats are worse.

What is more worrying is that he isn't learning from his mistakes.

Injuries also forced Zaheer Khan, India's premium strike bowler, to cut down on pace. But Zack camouflaged that deficiency with greater accuracy and swing.

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Image: Ishant Sharma
Photographs: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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'Ishant has lost everything: Pace, swing, bounce'

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And it is not that Ishant hasn't had enough opportunities.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the Indian think-tank has persisted with him even when the bowler was underperforming.

"Ishant doesn't work hard enough," feels former India player Maninder Singh.

"It is up to the coach to give him homework and evaluate the same once he has done it," says Maninder. "Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be happening."

Manoj Prabhakar, as always, has the last word. "The major problem," Prabhakar rues about Ishant, "is he's not even trying to improve!"


Image: Ishant Sharma
Photographs: Getty Images

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