New Delhi: Buoyed by the talent in India's fast bowling department, former pacer Chetan Sharma feels Ishant Sharma has matured as a bowler and is leading the pack well. Ishant, who has been underfire for his lackluster showing in away matches, gave India crucial breakthroughs in the recent two Tests against Sri Lanka and Chetan feels that even a couple of wickets by pacers is a good assist for the spinners on sub-continent turfs.
"Ishant is bowling well. I was in Sri Lanka and I spoke to him for half-an-hour. He sounded a very mature fast bowler. There used to be shy bowlers who used to sneak past their seniors in order to avoid a talk with them, but not Ishant, who comes and speaks to you. And that tells you about his confidence," Chetan told PTI in an interview.
"He understands what he is doing. And he has the backing of a lot of talented youngsters like Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and (Mohammed) Shami is yet to join the squad. I don't think there is a problem in the pace department. If a pacer can pick up 2-3 wickets on the sub-continent tracks then I believe he has done his job," said the cricketer-turned-commentator.
Chetan, 49, who represented India in 23 Tests and 65 ODIs in his decade-long international career between 1984-1994, also believes that in the pace bowling department India will be spoilt for choices in home conditions. "I think in India, the think-tank will be spoilt for choices. On turning wickets there will be a problem of plenty as we saw it here when Varun (Aaron) played then Umesh was brought in. Ishant has already cemented his place.
"These bowlers have also got the strength to perform on Australian and English wickets. They have the ability, with Umesh bowling at around 145 and Varun also having the pace. It's just a matter of experience and that will certainly come with time. Being with the team makes you learn. Your senior players and coaches talk to you and you gain from their experience, so it's all a learning curve," he said.
Chetan, though, was critical of India's spin force but praised Ravichandran Ashwin. Incidentally Ashwin's bowling figures of 5 for 42 at P Sara Oval, surpassed Chetan's 5 for 118 in September 1985 as the best figures by an Indian bowler in Sri Lanka. "If you see the spin department, if we had a better option than Amit Mishra in the younger lot then we would have not have brought him back after so many years. Or an Harbhajan Singh. So it means that the young talent we have needs time to rise up to international standards," Chetan said.
"That's what I feel, because I am not involved in the selection process. But you get an idea by the selection process that there is no new spinner on the horizon who are better than Harbhajan or Mishra. Calling them back after so many years is a direct answer to the dearth in the spin department. Having said that Ravichandran Ashwin bowled splendidly well and is a major cog in India's spinning wheel," he added.
Chetan also opines that the new-found confidence in a young Indian team is because of Team Director Ravi Shastri. "Ravi Shastri's presence has made a lot of difference. Look he was a very aggressive cricketer. I have had the chance of playing under him as captain in one Test and you can't help but notice his way of encouraging player, it's just too good.
And he has a knack of helping others," Chetan said. "In the first Test after the first innings, I saw him talking to Amit Mishra for half-an-hour before the match starts. Just seeing him talk to the veteran spinner from the commentary box made us feel the difference. The leggie picked up 4 wickets in the innings and see how he performed.
"I believe let him be Team Director even if you have different coaches for different formats. Let everybody report to him and that will certainly make sense. He is just brilliant," he added. Virat Kohli registered his first win as Test captain after India leveled the three-match series at 1-1 and Chetan is all praise for the aggressive leader.
"Look what happens, it's not always about being humble as a leader or being a nice captain who can be successful. I have seen a lot of aggressive captains who did well. Aggressiveness is on the field but what matters is the dressing room atmosphere," he said.
"What I saw in Sri Lanka, this unit looks to be a very happy team. We can get the vibes having played international cricket for so long. We talk about body language while commentating, but Indian team's body language in Sri Lanka was good even after the loss in Galle. So you understand that the mood within the team is good," he said.