While most of his teammates boarded an early Saturday flight to Guwahati for Delhi’s next Ranji Trophy stop, Ishant Sharma returned to Delhi on Friday night after suffering a “soft tissue tear during a stretch with the second new ball”.
Ishant, one of only two India pacers to earn more than 100 Test caps, spoke on a range of issues about his career following Delhi’s defeat to Maharashtra in the Ranji opener. Excerpts:
The secret of the fast bowler who played 100 tests
Don’t think too much about “workload”. It is a term that has come in recent times, especially for fast bowlers. I have not seen anything like this during my international stint. When I started playing, my coach would give me the ball at one in the afternoon and we would play till sunset. That way I could bowl long spells in Ranji and later for India. If you want to improve, all you can do is keep bowling.
Are Indian pacers overprotected or do they avoid playing domestic games unless absolutely necessary?
If you have made a name for yourself in domestic cricket, then you should not be selective about the games you play. When you have played a lot of cricket for the country, then only you can be given an occasional break. Most of the pacers break down during Ranji games as they do not go through ideal preparation.
Bowling in Ranji is a different ballgame altogether. If you are studying for IAS exam, you have to study for 16 hours a day. Similarly, if you want to prepare to finish the entire Ranji season and bowl 20 overs in a day, you cannot prepare for it by taking breaks. If you are used to bowling 25 overs a day in the nets, only then can you bowl 20 overs in a game.
In which direction do you see your cricketing journey going?
I don’t really think about the future too much. I am enjoying my cricket right now. So I have played all three formats this domestic season. I am not putting myself under the pressure of ‘I want to make a comeback’ anywhere. I have put all these things out of my mind. As long as I have the passion for the game, I will continue to enjoy cricket.
Proud moment: Ishant, with his wife, holding his 100th Test cap. , Photo Credit: Sportzpix for BCCI
Does this mean that you have achieved all that you wanted at the highest level?
Not necessary! It’s not that I don’t want to go back out there and play, but I have stopped chasing something. I will give my 100 per cent wherever I am playing, but I will not expect to be selected in the (national) team if I do well. Like I said, I have started enjoying myself on the field and helping the youngsters whenever I can.
How challenging has it been to get back to the domestic grind?
I wouldn’t call it challenging, but I see it as a great opportunity for me, the boys and the whole team. It’s been a while since we excelled as a unit. The last time we made it to the final was in 2017-18 and Delhi is a big team in domestic cricket, so I am looking forward to contributing to the best of my ability for my state. I remember the state cricket fraternity supporting me when I was young, so whenever I can give back to the state, it feels great.
How are you taking it as you practically cannot spend the whole year with the Delhi team?
I practice with him whenever I get time, I spend time with him, I share my experiences. Even on the field, I try and help them deal with difficult situations. It is important to face or take advantage of crucial moments in all formats and if we can handle these situations better, then the team will be in a good position. We are missing those moments, and are faltering as a team as a result. I am trying my best to help the youth deal with these situations.
Are youngsters serious about domestic cricket? Or do they consider it only as a launchpad for IPL?
Yes, if you do well in T20 and ODI then you can get selected in IPL but definitely, if you want to be a test cricketer, you have to do well in day game, that is Ranji Trophy. There is no other way.
Does GenNext really aspire to be a Test cricketer?
I can’t say for sure but with my limited experience, especially in my team there are bowlers who want to bowl 20 overs a day and bowl fast. I think it is a very encouraging sign, especially for my state team. I spoke to a few guys from Maharashtra and even they were asking serious and honest questions about how to improve their red-ball game and contribute more to their team. Maybe that’s why I felt there is a lot of misconception about domestic cricketers. Generally people think that youngsters don’t want to play cricket, but from what I have seen, they are keen on it.
How different is going unsold in the IPL auction than being dropped from the Indian team?
To be honest, I have stopped thinking about all this. Once I go back home, I have my family, they love me. I have my dogs, they don’t really care what I do on the field. I have my wife, my parents and my friends, they see me only as Ishant and not as a cricketer. I just enjoy my life. It doesn’t matter to me whether I am wanted or unwanted. I am still playing this game because I love playing cricket. When I started fast bowling, I did it because I enjoyed it, not because someone wanted me or someone disliked me. To be honest, I don’t care about all these things, nor do I want to care about it.
Have you thought about life after being a competitive cricketer?
I haven’t started thinking about it yet because I worked hard before the domestic season so that the whole season can go on. Yes, unfortunately soft tissue injury happened as I am playing days cricket after almost a year. I hope I get well soon but my mind is still 18 years old. He wants to continue playing but I have to listen to my body too. But as long as the body can be in the space and I have the passion to go through the grind, I’ll keep going. The moment I don’t feel like going through the motions after I wake up one morning, I’ll end up with it.