BRIDGETOWN, (Reuters) – Coming from a country where high-scoring batsmen are worshipped and spin bowlers adored, Ishant Sharma has learnt the hard way that patience was the key to success for an Indian fast bowler.
But at 22 and with five years of international cricket already under his belt, the towering paceman’s resilience is starting to pay off.
Yesterday, he skittled the once-mighty West Indies in Barbados, a notoriously fast pitch where India have never won a test, taking career-best figures of six for 55. In the process, he captured his 100th test wicket in just his 33rd test appearance and finished off the first innings with wickets off successive balls to go into the second innings on a hat-trick.
“When I started playing cricket. I obviously never expected to be the fifth youngest to take 100 wickets in tests,” he told a news conference.
“Especially because in the last five years I’ve seen so many ups and downs. I’ve struggled with my bowling.”
First picked to play for India when he was just 18, Sharma has long been recognised as a player of immense talent but it has not all been smooth sailing. He has been dropped and recalled several times and his form has fluctuated.
A genuine speedster who bowls at speeds in excess of 145 km/h (90 mph) and gets great lift and bounce from his 1.95 metre (6 ft 5 in) frame, Sharma briefly experimented with slowing down his pace to try and get more control, before realising he was wasting his best assets. “Obviously, pace and bounce is my strength in bowling,” he said.
“Even if I’m doing well with my swing, I don’t want to lose my pace and bounce.”
Sharma’s success in the test arena has not always carried over to the shorter version of the game where containment is just as important as capturing wickets but he said he was happy plying his trade in test cricket.
“Everyone wants to be a test cricketer,” he said. “Especially as a bowler because if you don’t bowl well in that first spell, you get a chance to come back for a second spell or a third spell.
“I lost my pace and I lost my rhythm but now I’ve learnt to stick to whatever your strength is. In test matches, you have to be patient, that’s why it’s called test cricket.”