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India’s strike bowler poor show at Kanpur indicates he needs to be used sparingly

Thursday, November 20, 2021

Mission: Preserve Ishant

Chandresh Narayanan

Kanpur: Before the third ODI against England got underway, the buzz in the English set-up was about a certain Indian fast bowler who was yet to face them.

After watching Ishant Sharma rattle the Aussies over the last one year, the level of expectation surrounding the lanky bowler were high in the English camp.

They all waited with bated breath to see when and where India would unleash Ishant. It was no surprise therefore that the Englishmen seemed to be prepared for the fast bowler.

When he finally returned from an injury break, Ishant was not thrown at the Englishmen immediately by Indian skipper MS Dhoni. This was Ishant's first one-dayer since missing the series in Sri Lanka.

He made them wait a little longer than they would have hoped for as Ishant loitered about at mid-off region even as Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel began operations with the new ball.

But the expectations were rising by the minute Ishant warmed up and made it evident to the Englishmen that he was ready for action. When his turn finally came by the start of the tenth over, Ishant was nice and warmed up.

But straightaway it was clear that the England team had a plan up their sleeve for Ishant. It seemed that Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara were hell bent on disturbing the man who is expected to trouble them over the next few weeks.

Not wanting to miss out on scoring brownie points, Bell and Bopara tried what no batsman has done thus far to Ishant _ danced down the track. This put off Ishant who has been used to all the respect in the world. His pace and his ability with the ball had gained enough admirers. But this brave act by Bell and Bopara surely seemed to have upset Ishant.

He was soon wavering and the first sign was a no-ball, followed by another one off the very next ball. The wheels had come off Ishant and he was looking half the bowler he was in the Test matches.

The limited-overs version was giving him a harsh lesson and it is surely something the management could have avoided. Ishant's first spell was spanked for 4-0-29-0 with two no-balls.

The idea of using Ishant, like South Africa used speed merchant Allan Donald in ODIs, had failed. Quickly Ishant was banished to the deep without much to do. It is no secret as to who came up with this idea. An active member of the Proteas team of the 1990s, Kirsten has obviously seen how the White Lightning was used in one-day cricket.

For the next 15 overs, Ishant was forgotten, the part-timers took over. Ishant was back for the slog overs. This time with senior pro Zaheer Khan helping him set the field.

Zaheer set the field and let Dhoni cool his heels for once. That also did not seem to do the trick as Ishant once again overstepped the line a few times. Once after a no-ball, he even let it slip off his hand as he attempted to fool the batsman with a slower delivery. This was to be a free hit, but instead gifted 5 runs off a wide ball which went way down the leg-side.

When he finally got a wicket it was off a slog which was gulped gleefully by the man at long-off. Off the very next ball, he had another wicket with the ball clipping the stump on its way down the leg-side. For a man who was having a horror match, this was quite a turnaround as he inched close to a hat-trick. But the hat-trick ball was as erratic as it could be, a wide and a little out of reach for the left-handed Stuart Broad.

The rest of his spell was played out quietly but by the end of it all, Ishant had a horror day at Kanpur's Green Park giving away 60 runs off his nine over spell.

Perhaps these nine overs will re-inforce the view among a certain section that Ishant needs to be used sparingly and if possible never in one-day cricket. Skipper Dhoni certainly believes in taking good care of his strike bowler, hopefully this game has given him enough indication to do the same.