In the cult classic US TV series Breaking Bad, timid chemistry school teacher turned star methamphetamine cook Walter White’s life comes full circle in the 7th episode of the 5th and last season when he browbeats a drug kingpin into accepting his terms by uttering the now immortal line ‘say my name’. In that one scene, he completed the transformation of a much maligned character from a timid cowering school teacher to a bad a** drug kingpin.
For Ishant Sharma, the spell he bowled at Lord’s on 21st July, 2014 on the 5th day of the second Test of the Investec Series marked his Breaking Bad moment as he finally showed what he could do with the red ball; after all those years of broken promises and inept displays when it seemed he simply did not have the will to carry on.
He became a bowler from whom the captain perhaps himself did not know what to expect on a game by game basis or from one innings to the other of a Test match. For instance, in the second Test at Wellington last year Ishant picked up 6 wickets in the first innings and ripped the heart out of the New Zealand batting line up while in the second innings he sent down 45 impotent overs with no wicket to his name, as New Zealand went on to comfortably draw a Test match that they should have lost.
On the other hand the hammering he received at the hands of Australian tailender (no, he is not an all rounder yet despite his IPL performances) James Faulkner that cost India 30 runs in 6 balls and the mach, led to India’s usually unflappable captain M. S. Dhoni to comment that it was not possible for him to ‘spoon feed bowlers.
When the squad for the tour of England was announced, there was widespread disbelief at the inclusion of the player who had turned out in 55 Tests for India but had the worst record for any bowler who had played those many Test matches. The player in question is Ishant Sharma and this is where the sort of belief that M. S. Dhoni has in his players has to be lauded.
However, the decision to go with Ishant in the first two Tests was a gamble he might have ended up regretting after the first Test or the first innings of the second Test or even in the decisive last innings of the Lords test but this time Ishant did not disappoint his captain, did not disappoint his countrymen and most importantly did not let himself down.
England looked to have negotiated the morning session on the fifth day and the fifth wicket partnership between Joe Root and Moeen Ali seemed to be taking the game away from India as the pair looked largely untroubled throughout their partnership although they did not score as freely. The runs started to flow as Dhoni brought back Ishant Sharma into the attack as the final throw of the dice ahead of lunch and in one over Joe Root hit him for 3 boundaries.
The old fears seemed to have resurfaced but that is when Dhoni advised Ishant to use his height, pace and the ability to extract bounce as a ploy to unsettle the England batsman. In the last over before lunch, with the match quickly slipping away from India from a promising position, Ishant started bowling fast and at the head of Root, who somehow survived and got off strike.
The ploy that was thrust upon Ishant Sharma by his captain despite the former’s disapproval seemed to have failed but off the last ball before lunch Ishant produced a bouncer that Moeen Ali had little clue about.
In a desperate bid to avoid the ball he left his bat hanging above his shoulder and a simple catch was offered to short leg, which was gleefully accepted. A session that seemed to have gone England’s way was turned on its head by that magic ball from Ishant and it was India who went to lunch as the team most likely to win the game.
Post lunch Ishant produced a spell of fast, hostile short pitched stuff from round the wicket that induced the English batsmen to go for the hook and one after another they perished as they played right into Dhoni’s version of the ‘leg theory’ at Lords that afternoon.
In a matter of few overs Ishant, under the instructions of his captain, had transformed himself from a bowler who was merely trying to bowl in the ‘right areas’ to someone who was using his natural talents to dismiss batsmen as he paved the way for one of the most memorable victories in recent memory.
Ishant had shown his talents as a bowler in that memorable spell against Ricky Ponting at Perth as a 19 year old and it seemed he was living off that spell for the rest of his cricketing existence as he only showed glimpses of that brilliance in the ensuing Tests.
However at Lords on the 21st of July, 2014 Ishant Sharma seemed to have buried the ghosts that kept him from becoming what he was supposed to become all along- a genuine match winning bowler for India.
By: Soham Samaddar
Image Courtesy: Ishant Sharma Blog
Related articles across the web