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Ishant tells the bouncer tale

Indian fast bowler tells the story behind his match-winning spell at Lord’s

Twenty five is a wonderful age. It’s the age at which you venture out in the real world and begin to experience the challenges and difficulties that come with being an adult with responsibilities. You’re old enough to tell right from wrong and yet raw enough to make mistakes.

Ishant Sharma is 25 years old.

He has already played 57 Test matches for his country. He has been on the highest crests and been pushed down to the lowest troughs. He has attracted sensational praise and adulation and been subjected to cruelest criticism and ridicule.

Most 25-year olds would crumble and burn with that kind of extremes. It would mess with their psyche and motivation.

But not Ishant. He fights on. He keeps toiling. He continues to quietly work hard on his game, his body. He never hesitates in doing whatever his team and his captain want from him, even if it means letting go of personal glory. Ishant is a team man. He is an honest workhorse. And only sometimes he gets rewarded for his effort.

That time came on July 21, 2014, Day 5 of the Lord’s Test. India needed six wickets to win and the match was drifting away with Joe Root and Moeen Ali were grinding it out for England. Last over before Lunch and MS Dhoni decided to take a gamble. He needed a faithful accomplice and Ishant was there.

The tall, lanky fast bowler bent his back and send down eight overs of intense, short-pitched bowling with a ball that was as soft as a brownie. He bounced five England batsmen out and won India a Test match at Lord’s after 28 years. Ishant had 7 for 74.

In a chat with BCCI.TV, the Man of the Match explained the method behind the mad ploy.

You are a part of history!

Unbelievable! It feels great to be part of the history but more than that it feels wonderful to lead India to this historic win. This is a very special win for us and winning matches for my country is all I want to do in life.

What was the thinking behind the all-out bouncer ploy?

In my first spell of five overs, the batsmen go beaten quite a few times and the ball moved as well. So I thought the ball would still be reversing, which didn’t happen. That’s when MS bhai told me that since the ball has become really soft, let’s try something new. He said let’s open up the whole field and bowl only bouncers. This is the last over (before lunch) and you never know what could happen. The plan worked and we decided to continue with it after lunch. We persisted with the old ball because with the new ball the batsman can judge the bounce with ease, while with the old one he cannot gauge the bounce as some might take off and an odd one will keep low. I feel all the wickets I got today should go to MS bhai because he planned them and set the field for them.

Have you ever bounced so many batsmen out in one innings before?

No (smiles). You keep experiencing new things in life. This was one such new experience for me. I will try to learn from it.

An Indian pacer bouncing out England batsmen – that’s something new as well.

They say the Indian batsmen are vulnerable against the short balls but in this Indian team we have batsmen who can play the short ball very well and we have fast bowlers who can bowl good bouncers at will.

Surprised to see England batsmen playing hook and pulling everything like that?

The wicket had slowed down considerably over the five days and because of the footmarks there was a lot of variable bounce. It was very difficult for the batsmen to leave the bouncers; they had to play it and they had to go for the pull or hook.

Both Joe Dawes and Duncan Fletcher told me Indian pacers don’t bowl enough bouncers. They will be happy today.

They will. Duncan keeps telling me, ‘bowl more bouncers, bowl more bouncers’. But when you go in with a plan, sometimes it works and at times it doesn’t. Things happen suddenly. Today I got to learn that if you keep trying persistently with the short ball ploy on a flat wicket with nothing in it for you, you can get rewards you never expected.

Being the senior-most bowler in the team, are you transforming yourself into the leader of the pack?

When I am on the field, I talk to the other pacers and mainly share my experience in a similar situation. If you want to pick 20 wickets as a team, it is of paramount importance that the bowlers communicate with each other constantly. I just tell them things like how the wicket generally plays and what the particular batsman generally does. I do try to be the leader on the field because I have played more matches than them. But once we’re off it, I am not a senior player because we all are almost of same age. So, there is a dual aspect to that role.

Did you put your experience of playing at Lord’s in 2011 to practice today in any way?

Last time when I picked four wickets at Lord’s, I remember I was bowling very well in the first session but didn’t get any wickets. When I came back on, I got four wickets in no time. It was on my mind today. I knew that on this ground the wickets come in bulk. So, I knew that if I stuck to my ploy patiently, I will get the rewards. I told the same to Shami and Bhuvi as well, so that they keep the belief and don’t give up.

You have copped so much criticism over the years. Does it hurt you sometimes when you hear or read something nasty?

No one has given me as much in life as cricket has. When I go out on the cricket field, I give all that I have, every time. Sometimes, I feel like my efforts are never appreciated by people other than my team-mates. Even today, because I got all these wickets, people are praising me. But had I gone for runs, had the plan failed, no one would have appreciated the fact that I was continuously bowling bouncers with an 80-plus overs old ball. It has always been like that with me and now I am pretty used to it. I am experienced enough to ensure that I don’t get affected by what XYZ is saying about me. I know that my mates have the belief in me and they appreciate what I do for the team. That’s enough for me to carry on. I will continue to give myself fully each time I step on the field to play for my country.

Shirin Sadikot

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Jadeja’s day out

India all-rounder relives his perfect day on the field

Ravindra Jadeja walked in on the fourth Day of the Lord’s Test with India on 203 for 6, after the wickets of MS Dhoni and Stuart Binny in quick succession. India’s lead was only 179 with hardly any batting to follow.

Any other batsman would have looked to settle in, buckle down and steady the innings. But Jadeja had other plans. After scores of 25, 31 and 3 in the series until then, the all-rounder was determined to make a telling contribution with the bat. And he not only chose the right moment but a totally unorthodox way to do it. He hit his way through it and smashed a 57-ball 68 with nine fours.

Along with an in-form, solid and confident Bhuvneshwar Kumar (52), Jadeja added 99 runs for the eighth wicket and India set England 319 to win. Jadeja was in action soon, coming on to bowl in the seventh over, and got the wicket of Sam Robson off his first ball. It was his day, and he made the most of it.

After the day, Jadeja spoke to BCCI.TV about the riveting day and discussed some unorthodox strategies that were evident on the field. He told us why MS Dhoni stood back to him and explained the meaning of his innovative celebration after getting his fifty.

You went in to bat when the team was in trouble. Yet you went for shots straight away. Reason?

Yesterday when I went back to the hotel in the evening I was thinking about my batting so far. I started thinking how I was going to play today and decided that the best way for me is to play my game. If I play any differently I won’t get runs. So I decided that irrespective of the situation I will back myself and go for my shots. That’s the only way I can score runs. When I went in to bat, the team also needed runs.

Bhuvi was so solid from the other end. Did that ease the pressure off you?

The good thing about our partnership was that both of us were scoring runs fluently and so we didn’t let them build pressure from one end. Bhuvi is in very good form and all his four innings so far have been very important for the team and personally for him. We hope that he continues to score runs throughout the series.

Having batted with the tail quite a bit now, do you think there has been a vast improvement in the tailenders’ batting?

That’s right. Our bowling coach always encourages our pacers to go and have a batting session in the nets. He makes them face throw-downs for 30-40 minutes each. Duncan Fletcher keeps telling us that the runs scored by No. 9, 10 and 11 are very important in all the formats, and we have seen it so far in this series.

What was the meaning of the celebration? MS was doing the same in dressing room.

It has got to do with a tradition that we have among the Rajpoots. During festivals and special occasions, we have professional sword-fighters perform with a sword in each hand, moving them in that fashion. It’s called ‘talwaar baazi’. I only had one bat with me so I did it with one hand. I wanted to have a different celebration and so I had decided whenever I get a fifty, I will do that. MS bhai must have seen it and realized what I was doing. So, he was mimicking me.

While bowling, you changed your end a couple of times. What was the reason behind that?

I just wanted to try out the two ends and see from where I got more purchase off the pitch. When Vijay came on to bowl, we wanted him to bowl from the nursery end so he could get the ball to pitch on rough marks against the left-handers and I could do the same from the other end.

You came on to bowl in seventh over. That’s something you do only in the subcontinent.

When I was batting I had the feeling that I would be asked to bowl pretty early. Being a left-hander myself, I knew exactly how the footmarks were affecting me and that’s when I started to make my bowling plans.

Why was MS Dhoni standing back to you?

It was because of the foot marks, it was very difficult for the left-hander, as the odd ball was taking off, a few kept low and some turned square. We thought it would be a good idea for the keeper to stand back because in case there was a nick, it would be an easy catch for him standing back. And that’s exactly what happened in the second last over but then MS was standing up to the stumps.

What was the target the team had in mind?

We didn’t have a particular number in mind initially but as the day progressed and we saw how the wicket was behaving, we thought anywhere between 250-280 would be a good target to put up a fight. The ball was bouncing awkwardly and spinning enormously and we knew the footmarks would be handy against their six left-handers. 

Shirin Sadikot

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