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Ishant Sharma is raw, pacy, talented
by Gulu Ezekiel
Feb 10, 2008
Ishant Sharma is raw, pacy, talented

By Gulu Ezekiel – Dreamcricket Special Columnist

It was on a typically nippy November morning two years ago that I made my way to the Ferozeshah Kotla ground in New Delhi and happened to be present on the day that Ishant Sharma made his first-class debut.

The buzz in Capital cricket circles was that the beanpole of a bowler was one to watch out for and I was curious to see him for myself.

Though he picked up only one wicket on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy match against Tamil Nadu (he would get another three the next day), there was one memory that keeps coming back to me as I have watched him make a name for himself on the ongoing tour of Australia.

Delhi (and former India) wicket-keeper Vijay Dahiya had a stunned look on his face as he and the slips cordon kept being pushed further and further back by the pace Sharma generated.

The ‘thud thud thud’ sound of ball hitting the ‘keeper’s leather gloves seemed to reverberate round the empty ground.

The pace and lift the 18-year-old managed to get out of a typically lifeless Kotla track had all those watching chatting animatedly about the obvious talent of this raw, spindly teenager.

Just six months later he was making his Test debut in Bangladesh and although he picked up only one wicket in the match, the selectors fortunately did not consign him to the list of one-Test wonders.

In one of those quirks of fate that makes cricket so fascinating, Sharma may not have got a chance at all in the Australia series if pace spearhead Zaheer Khan had not had to pull out of the tour with an injury after the first Test at Melbourne.

Though he went wicketless in the second Test at Sydney, Sharma bowled with splendid control and fire and was retained for the rest of the series. Grabbing the chance, he made a terrific impact, particularly in bowling against Ricky Ponting, the most successful international batsman of the last five years.

Still in his teens, Sharma on Sunday bowled India to its first victory against Australia at the MCG for 22 years.

He is in the forefront of the youthful revolution in Indian cricket that is causing both joy and consternation among followers who have got sucked into that youth v. experience debate that has been raging ever since Greg Chappell took over as coach in 2005.

It flared up again after the disastrous World Cup last year and the youth brigade under new limited-overs captain MS Dhoni then got a tremendous boost when he led the nation to that stunning triumph in the inaugural T-20 World Cup in South Africa last September.

The culling of the seniors began quietly with the dropping of former captain Rahul Dravid from the ODI side against Pakistan late last year.

The storm broke out once another former captain, Sourav Ganguly was axed followed the Test series Down Under with the selectors bringing in a bunch of youngsters for the ODI tri-series.

Amidst all this turmoil the seniormost, Sachin Tendulkar has been serenely piling up the runs in both Tests and ODIs.

As for the younger lot, despite the encouraging start to the CB series, it is still too early to make a call. But for the good of Indian cricket, we should back them all the way.

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