Some may consider Ishant Sharma lucky to be included in India’s one-day and Test squads for South Africa considering his recent form. Others may argue that India needs his six-year international experience on tracks that will assist pace bowlers.
The fact is that Ishant was dropped for the ongoing three-match ODI series versus the West Indies against whom he didn’t feature in the two Tests as well. The national selectors made a serious note of his nine-wicket haul for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy against Haryana on the helpful Roshanara Club pitch where Delhi triumphed by 105 runs and picked him for the South Africa series.
Ishant conceded 189 runs (in 24 overs) for his two wickets in the three ODIs he figured in against Australia before he was dropped. In the four Tests against Australia, he claimed seven wickets. Former South Africa pace ace Fanie de Villiers is not surprised that Ishant does not occupy a high place in the world rankings (31st in Tests, 66th in ODIs). De Villiers attributes Ishant’s drop to his long hair.
Ishant’s best effort in the 2010-11 Test series was 2-77 in the third and final Test at Cape Town. Back then, De Villiers had told MiD DAY: “Firstly, he needs to cut his hair. He doesn’t look like a sportsperson to me.” Yesterday, he was more critical: “I have seen too many sportsmen not make it at the highest level because of outside factors. Kambli (Vinod) is a good example… rings, earrings, chains etc.
It took his focus away. Image was his problem. The game is already too hard. Ishant-like characters are not the most teachable of people. They are normally not the best team men too. It’s these kind of individuals that give a team a bad name or image.
‘Not a good example’
“Superstitions, image, bad ethics and anything outside the norm, can’t be conducive for a good sportsman. He must remember that he has an obligation to the public who are trying to bring up their kids conservatively. He is not a good example for my kids. He is probably his own worst enemy.”
De Villiers wants Ishant to be normal and do justice to his potential. His supporters and detractors will never forget how splendidly he bowled to Ricky Ponting & Co on India’s controversial 2007-08 tour of Australia.
“The moment your image is more important than the game, you will fall that low in the rankings. You will never be in the top four or five bowlers in the world. Look at the best bowlers in the world. They are normal people. Look at the best ever tennis players in the world… Federer, Sampras.” No better time for Ishant to prove his critics wrong.