It is safe to call Ishant Sharma one of the greatest Indian pacers in the history of Test cricket. His career could be split into two halves, one pre 2014 and the other post 2014. It is easy to forget that Ishant Sharma, who will play his 100th Test this Wednesday, is only 32 years old. He has seen a lot of ups and downs at such a young age. Most importantly, he has kept working on his skill and fitness to turn around a career that at one point looked like one of the luckier ones. From there to leading India’s attack to being one of the best Test bowlers in the world over the last four years is a testament to his commitment and stubbornness.
Over the years, Ishant has also understood his body better and has learnt to train smarter. “Thirty-eight is difficult to say as of now,” Ishant said when asked if he felt in his best shape and if he could continue playing as long as England’s James Anderson, another one-format bowler, has. “I just go one Test at a time. I don’t think too far because you never know. You just take it one game at a time. But, yes, I understand my body, what kind of training I need to do. Before also I used to train very hard but didn’t use to think about the recovery. But as you grow older and you have to bowl long spells, then you need to look after yourself. So, I am looking after myself.” Vengsarkar had one look at him in a domestic game and was so impressed with his speed and bounce that he soon included him in the Indian team. When he began his career, the tall Ishant extracted lift with his high-arm action but primarily brought the ball into the right-hander. There has been a remarkable change in Ishant in the last four years though. He is now pitching the ball up and moving the ball away from the right-hander or getting it to straighten. His bowling now has the cutting edge. Ishant Sharma has now also picked up 100 Test wickets in India. He is only the fourth Indian pacer to do so after Kapil (219), Javagal Srinath (108) and Zaheer (104). During this period, his average is around 20 and he has been the senior man of a resurgent and potent Indian pace pack. His home and away record reads: 101 wickets in 38 home Tests at 31.05 and 199 scalps in 60 matches on foreign soil at 32.88. Ishant will reach another milestone soon. His 100th Test. He is the contemporary Indian pace attack’s long-distance man.
The last India pacer to get the landmark was Kapil Dev as the World Cup-winning former captain had played as many as 131 Tests between 1978 and 1994. Kapil is arguably India’s best fast bowler and his longevity was awe-inspiring. However, Ishant who is getting to the three-figure mark has proved to be the workhorse that India needed, displaying supreme fitness even in the fast-paced T20 era. No current fast bowler apart from Stuart Broad (145) and (158) have played 100 or more Tests and Ishant will join the elite list on Wednesday. And it is likely that Ishant Sharma will be the last Indian pacer to play 100 Tests, considering the workload for modern-day bowlers in cramped cricket calendars. Ishant, 32, last played an ODI in 2016 and T20I in 2013. His white-ball commitments are restricted to domestic cricket and the Indian Premier League where he features for the Delhi Capitals, this means he can focus on Test cricket and has a lot more to offer. To conclude, one can say that Ishant has been one the best pacers India has ever seen in the longest version of the game.