On the cusp of becoming only the second Indian pacer after the legendary Kapil Dev to play 100 Tests, Ishant Sharma on Monday said playing the World Test Championship final would be like the World Cup for him.
More than crossing Kapil Dev’s 131 Test tally, Ishant set his sights on facing New Zealand in the one-off match in England to be played later this year, should India qualify.
“(Crossing) 131 will take a long time. I only want to think about qualifying for the World Test Championship (WTC) final. This is my World Cup where if I win, I can have the same feeling that others had while winning the ODI World Cup.” he said during a virtual press conference ahead of the third Test against England, beginning in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.
India need to win one and avoid defeat in the other in the remaining two matches to qualify for the summit clash against Kane Williamson’s side.
Ask him about Jimmy Anderson playing at 38 and if he could continue till that age, he laughed it off.
“I will go one game at a time. You never know what comes. Yes, I am more professional about my recovery now. Earlier, I would train hard but didn’t focus on my recovery. As you grow older, you need to recover well to bowl long spells, take care of your body.”
Ishant attributed his remarkable longevity in the game to understanding what the “captain wants from him”.
He made his Test debut as a lanky 18-year-old in Bangladesh when Rahul Dravid was the captain and subsequently was led by Anil Kumble, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane during the last decade and half.
So which captain understood him the best in all these years?
“It is difficult to say who understood me the most as all of them understood me really well. But more than the captain understanding me, it was always important as to how I understood the captain,” Ishant said
“That’s very important. What does the captain want from me specifically. If those things are clear, communication becomes easier,” said the man who has 302 wickets from 99 Tests so far.
Ishant said that being dropped from white-ball squads and also missing out on a couple of seasons of IPL helped him in a way.
“I normally treat this as a blessing in disguise. It’s not that I don’t want to play white ball as that’s what is the job of a sportsman but if he is not playing, what does he do? At best he can train.”
For him, it was important that he felt grateful for what he has.
“I didn’t want my Test cricket to get affected because of my non-selection in ODIs. I should be grateful that I am at least playing one format,” he said.
“Maybe it helped me in completing 100 Tests. Having said that, I don’t think had I played three formats, I couldn’t have played 100 Tests. Maybe it would have taken a bit longer. I am only 32 and not 42.”
When asked about his run of 76 wickets in his last 20 games at an average of less than 20, Ishant kept it simple.
“I played more outside India, so I got those wickets. If you don’t bowl in India, how would you get wickets? To be very honest, it was just overseas conditions.”
On who will be the leader of the pack once he leaves the scene, Ishant backed Jasprit Bumrah.
“I think I don’t want to take one name. You are good and that’s why you play for India. But I think, after me, it is Jasprit Bumrah, who will play most matches for India.
“I think he has to lead the way and also it will depend on how he speaks to youngsters, take them under his wings, grooms them.”
For fast bowlers to blossom, one needs to understand their skill sets and plan accordingly.
“(Navdeep) Saini has pace, (Mohammed) Siraj has control. You have to understand people’s strengths. Skill sets are different and if you tell Saini to bowl one area and Siraj to hit 140k, then you are not doing justice to their strengths,” he explained.
Ishant added that for him 100th Test is just a number as the 99th Test was and that his preparation and mentality won’t be any different. “As long as I can maintain the intensity in my game, I will play for India,” he said.
With PTI inputs