Imagine a pace baller with an average of 25.3 in 33 test matches played between 2016 and 2021, outperforming himself from an average of 41 in the matches played before this period from 2007. Now, that’s sheer progress! That’s Ishant Sharma in international test cricket for the Indian Cricket Team! On his 35th birthday, let’s look at the pacer’s achievements in his cricketing career so far.
Career in the Indian National Cricket Team
An injury to Munaf Patel- one of the then-regular players in the playing squad of eleven- gave Ishant Sharma entry into the international cricketing world at the age of 18 in a test match against Bangladesh on 25 May 2007. Now, luck may have a big role in a sportsman’s career at times, but unless you perform enough to make the best of that ‘luck,’ you can easily be blended as ‘just another one’ and be a part of the ‘options.’
Honestly, Ishant didn’t shine that bright in that series; however, the man got everybody’s attention and space in the memory in 2008 against Australia because of his physical appearance- that dominating height of 6`4“ clearly made him quite a ‘troll’ for the batsmen- and even more so for being a pacer whose balling speed averaged at 150 km/h!
In that tournament, he earned himself praise from none other than the former Aussie captain Steve Waugh, ‘the next best thing in Indian Cricket.’ Reasons? He made an artistic show with the ball in that tournament, moving it from both sides, making it a challenge even for Ricky Ponting and crossing his average speed of 150 km/h once. This journey of enchantment continued for some time in both test matches and ODIs, at home and abroad, against teams like South Africa, Australia, and Sri Lanka.
Slow Blow for the Seamer
Since then, life has taken a downward turn for the tall, fun-loving Ishant. He lost his balling pace- the venom that got even the perfect of batsmen chilling shivers not long ago! Although it seemed to be a common issue among the Indian pacers at that time for various reasons, this eventually resulted in his losing self-confidence. Naturally, the selectors got skeptical, too.
But since Indian National Cricket didn’t have that many alternative seamers, Ishant kept getting selected in the playing eleven pretty much regularly, even after undergoing ankle surgery in 2012 that made him unfit to play for months. With all these ups and downs, more downs than ups, to be frank, he made it to 50 test matches by early 2013, albeit as one of the ballers with the worst average records.
He didn’t really give up because of these failures & obstacles and kept the fight on, although he never managed to reach that supremacy he had at the beginning of his career. In the New Zealand tour, he had 2 five-wicket hauls with a total of 15 wickets in test matches. He made an almost heroic performance in Lord’s with a spell of 7 for 74, which was, perhaps, his best international test match performance. But, for Ishant, the revival journey wasn’t as successful as expected, or rather, required.
Saying Goodbye to International Cricket?
Injuries did not leave him to his best baller self. With more and more mediocre performances, he lost his magic on the field and it was very much observed in test matches against Australia. His landing foot was constantly bothering him, and even before he could recover from that, he found himself in another injury, and this time, a knee injury put him out of the squad for the ODI matches of that tour. Not only that, he lost his place to Rohit Sharma in the World Cup for failing to recover from that injury in time.
In February 2021, in the 3rd test match in England’s tour to India, Ishant Sharma made it to 100 international test matches of his career. He also took his 300th wicket in international test matches in that very series. And on 25th November 2021, he played the last test match of his career and retired from International Cricket altogether. He stopped playing for the shorter formats of the game, i.e., ODI and T20, long back in 2016 and 2013, respectively, mostly due to his injuries as selectors found it was in the best interest of the team not to have him. In his entire international cricketing career, Ishant took more than 400 wickets in all three formats of the game.
Time in the Indian Premier League
Ishant Sharma made his debut in the Indian Premier League, aka IPL, in 2008 with Kings XI Punjab, and in 2018, he was bought by the Delhi Capitals in the auction for IPL 2019. Being the captain of the Delhi Capitals started to change things for the former Indian pacer in a positive way. There are more responsibilities to pay attention to than just your own game when you are appointed as the leader.
‘I began to feel like I am the only one who can take wickets and who can win games for Delhi. Since then, I have been playing with the same kind of mindset. I just want to take wickets.’Ishant Sharma, IPL 2019
Till 2023, Ishant has played a total of 101 IPL matches. His best average in IPL is 97.00 scored in 2021. He got 2 five-wicket hauls in his IPL career so far in 2011 and 2023.
Ishant may not have been the most successful seamer in his international career, but his bowling prowess definitely made the head turn. Although physical fitness, or the lack thereof, made a lot of contributions to his career in all the undesirable ways, he did credit a disciplined lifestyle behind his outstanding performance at his peak.
Being born into a Brahmin family, ‘eating in moderation’ was tough for Ishant with worried parents around; however, being married to a sportsperson, the Indian basketball player Pratima Singh, must have helped him in this regard. We wish this former Indian pacer a very happy and healthy birthday!