For a bowler who is now in his sixth year of international cricket, Ishant Sharma’s constant failure to deliver in the death overs is rather strange. His overall ODI figures are pretty good --71 scalps in 51 matches at an average of under 32. The economy rate of 5.65 and strike rate of 33.6 are more than acceptable in today’s times. In spite of all this his place in the Indian side in questionable. This is because he hasn’t developed the yorker which is a must weapon for any fast bowler in the shorter version of the game.
Even in the final match against Pakistan, Ishant almost allowed Mohammad Hafeez to take the game away from India. He was lucky that Hafeez ended up hitting one of his length balls straight to an Indian fielder. Ishant however did not learn from his mistakes and repeated the same blunder against England at Rajkot on Friday. This time though Craig Kieswetter and Samit Patel, in particular, ensured that Ishant was punished. Like against Pakistan, Ishant continued to deliver length balls, which allowed the England batsmen to get under the ball and launch Ishant into the boundary at will. Time and again, it has been mentioned by critics that allowing batsmen space to free their arms in the slog overs is a cardinal sin. The sooner Ishant realises this, the better it is for his survival in one-day cricket.
Akin to Ishant even Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled deliveries that allowed the batsmen to get on top of the ball. One cannot be harsh on the paceman though since he has just set his foot in international cricket. Also, it is the senior bowler in team who should be guiding him. In this case, Ishant himself hasn’t learnt the tricks of the trade. It wasn’t surprising then to see Kumar also faltering towards the end of the innings. In a sense, the junior bowler was only following in the footsteps of his senior. In the meantime, England reaped the benefits of India’s hapless bowling at the death.
With only nine runs separating the two sides in the end, Samit Patel’s late assault on Kumar and Ishant was definitely the game changer. The bowlers aren’t alone to blame for yet another defeat though. The Indians had their opportunity with the bat to turn the game around. Most of batsmen got starts, three in fact made half-centuries, however none of them went on to make a big score. As such, the Indian batsmen were equally accountable for the defeat, specially only such a batting-friendly surface like Rajkot. The game was a rare instance where India were ahead when it came to over-by-over comparison for most part of the chase but still ended up short. This was because they never covered up for the pounding their bowlers were given in the last two overs.
Coming back to Ishant, with Zaheer Khan all but gone, it is imperative that he steps up. India need him to deliver now more than ever.
--By A Cricket Analyst