| Team India players and support staff before a practice session, in Ranchi, on Tuesday. (PTI) |
Ranchi: Call it unfair, but it’s a fact that if you are listening to a Mozart symphony in a mosquito-infested room, the insect will get all the attention, as well as the ‘applause’, and all for very wrong reasons.
Ishant Sharma has managed something similar.
The ongoing India-Australia series has been the breeding ground of some fantastic cricket. As many as 1864 runs have been scored in just three ODIs; we have witnessed two breathtaking chases; Virat Kohli has proven that he has the license to thrill; Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s 139 not out in Mohali will go down in history as one of the best-planned innings in the one-day game; and most importantly India and their rivals from Down Under are displaying adrenaline-kicking competition for the coveted No.1 spot. Yet, halfway into the series, all that people are talking about is Ishant, Ishant and only Ishant!
After leaking 30 runs in the 48th over of the Australian innings, in Mohali, many now believe that Ishant is the ‘virus’ in the Indian bowling line-up. Truth is, Ishant has gone viral on the social networking sites. From Twitter to Facebook, Mr Sharma has taken over as one of the most popular subjects of public entertainment.
So while Ranchi braces for the fourth ODI of the seven-match series, to be played at the JSCA International Stadium on Wednesday, cricket has taken a backseat. Be it the practice session or the media conference, all eyes and ears solely concentrated on the pacer from Delhi.
India are trailing the Aussies 1-2, and under normal circumstances, on-lookers of the practice session would have employed their binoculars to analyse how hard the Suresh Rainas are working to negotiate short-pitched deliveries. Instead, most were busy pointing out how ineffective Ishant’s bowling was even at the nets.
For a change, Dhoni was not the sole frame of interest for the shutterbugs in Ranchi. Flashes fired in unison on a gloomy day to catch a pensive Ishant perched on the ice-box for the players.
So though the Indian team sweated it out for more than three hours on Tuesday, one isn’t sure how many looked beyond Ishant.
But to be honest, Wednesday’s match has a number of cricketing angles to be explored.
For India, it will be paramount to get their bowling right. Ishant may be receiving flak from every direction, but to be honest the bowling unit has been a collective failure. Barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar, no one appears to be in their rhythm. Ravichandran Ashwin’s guile seems to be a folklore of a bygone era, while Ranganath Vinay Kumar looks mediocre most of the times.
With tough foreign assignments (tours of South Africa and New Zealand) coming up, it would be logical to test the readiness of the Shami Ahmeds. Shami, Jaydev Unadkat and Amit Mishra deserve chances. While someone like Ishant has been bowling unimpressively for eternity and yet retaining place in the team/squad, the reserve bowlers haven’t been anything better than net bowlers.
In batting, it’s high time the Indians stop being the jumping jacks of world cricket. In Mohali, Rohit Sharma, Raina and Ravindra Jadeja handled short-pitched deliveries as a five-year-old would deal with the bulldozer. If the Indian pitches give such jitters, wickets in South Africa, New Zealand or Australia will inflict Malaria.
The Australian camp, on the other hand, resembled the peace of a monastery. Considered rank underdogs before the series began, they have been doing the extraordinary with consummate ease. Their practice session on Tuesday was more of a relaxed gathering.
There are a few other aspects, entirely non-cricket, to Tuesday’s game. One is the dew factor, the other is the rain. At this time of the year, dew needs to be given due respect. Add to that the forecast of rain on Wednesday and the situation seems pretty wet. Wait and watch would be advisable.
But as of now, the Ishant factor carries the maximum weight. Will he be dropped? Well, if he doesn’t carry a lifetime-validity card, he should be. Here’s something from the Facebook that might drill in the point: “If a giraffe has a sore throat, how many lozenges will it need to make it better?”
India (likely): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Ishant Sharma/Shami Ahmed
Australia (likely): Aaron Finch, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, George Bailey, Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty
Umpires: Richard Kettleborough and Vineet Kulkarni
TV: Anil Chaudhuri
Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama
Match starts: 1.30pm