About four or five days ago there was an article by Abhishek Purohit in Cricinfo which expounded on Ishant Sharma’s mediocre performance and wondered at his continued selection for the Indian team. The article pointed out that Ishant was ineffective both early and late, with the new ball as well as the old . That he neither took wickets nor kept the scoring down and that his bowling at the death was atrocious.
The surprising thing about the article was not what it said but that it hadn’t been said months ago. The truth of the article must be apparent to anyone not named Mahendra Singh Dhoni or who is not a national selector. Ishant had a dream debut as a 19 year old in Australia when he bowled with pace and fire and regularly troubled the Aussie batsmen, even making Ricky Ponting his ” rabbit”. Since then, his pace has fallen off , he doesn’t swing the ball (not entirely his fault in India) and he bowls without imagination . The only two things that have grown are his ego and the length of his hair.
The nadir for the self proclaimed ” spearhead of the Indian bowling attack” was two days ago when James Faulkner carted him for 30 runs in a single over to set up the Aussie victory in the 3rd ODI. Something has to be done and soon. Luckily , the solution is obvious and I am surprised no one has come up with it before me . It’s his hair…
If you look at the photograph accompanying the Purohit article ( ESPN 10/17) , you know that Ishant’s shoulder length hair flops over his eyes and face when he delivers the ball. Besides obscuring his sight, it is a drag on him, just as body hair is on swimmers. Because of that, he loses both pace and direction. All that needs to be done is to give him a crew cut. This “Reverse Samson treatment” should enable him to recover his lost pace and venom. Perhaps we will get a glimpse of the old Ishant who used to regularly reach 145kph on the speed gun. What the heck … shave his head bald and he might even touch 150.Instead of an innocuous medium-pacer, we might get a younger Dale Steyn, one who could truly be the spearhead of the Indian bowling attack.
On a serious note , some people wonder what Ishant has on Dhoni and the selectors that they persist with him in spite of his continued mediocrity. I think it has to do with Dhoni and his gut feelings which have paid off at crucial times . In the inaugural T20 championship, if you remember , at a crucial stage in the India -Pak final , Dhoni gave the ball to Joginder Sharma,a very ordinary medium pacer who had been ineffective early on. Somehow , the chap claimed a couple of quick wickets and India won an improbable victory. Much the same thing happened earlier this year in the Champions Trophy final when Ishant was re-introduced to the attack by Dhoni and picked up a key wicket as India won a match that had seemed lost. Dhoni remembers these things and stays with these players much longer than he should.
In my opinion , Ishant should immediately be dropped and forbidden from coming within 100 yards of a cricket pitch. BTW , Vinay Kumar could also be given a rest. If the plan is to build a team for the 2015 World Cup , India should immediately blood some of the youngsters who are waiting in the wings . I notice that the Aussie team has a couple of youngsters from their U-23 team and we should follow their example. It’s not as if our starting attack is world class. We should give chances to Mohit Sharma, Ish Pandey ( who showed promise on the A-teams tour of SA), Mohamed Shami , Jaidev Unadkat and others. There are some who keep clamoring for Irfan Pathan but I think he, like Ishant , has never lived up to his early promise and does not deserve another look. I see Zaheer Khan is attempting a comeback and took 4 wickets against a mediocre Windies team. No matter how well he does on the comeback trail , I don’t think the selectors should bring him back for WC2015 except as a last resort. Zaheer , in the past, has been fanatical about fitness but he is too long in the tooth already. We all know what happened to a geriatric Indian team in the 2007 World Cup.