Roseau, July 11: For a long while it seemed that Indian speedster Ishant Sharma's star was fading. The imposing 6"5' player had apparently descended into a prolonged rut after he burst onto the scene in 2007. Even the bounce and carry of the South African wickets during India's tour last Dec could not revive his flagging fortunes.
But with the conclusion of India's tour of the West Indies 2011 now, he has evidently effected a rejuvenation. Indeed, by emerging as the chart-topping wicket taker of the series with 22 scalps at a phenomenal average of 16.86, he has shown that he still possesses the verve to be a top-class seamer.
His performance in the Caribbean over the last few weeks has vindicated the selectors' decision to repose faith in his abilities. Ishant started the tour as perceptibly the weakest link in the Indian pace attack, having come off a few dismal and largely-barren seasons. But Indian fans were treated to a flaming new avatar, a player who had reinvented himself.
How did he do it? He simply morphed his temperament to one becoming of a Test specialist, making capital use of whatever bounce was on offer and scrambling his lengths, while maintaining a consistent line. Everything about his showing exuded confidence and maturity. Even his run-up and delivery seemed to demonstrate a fluidity that one associates with the world's great pace pastmasters.
He had the Windies batsmen shuffling vigorously between the front and back foot. In so doing, he had taken a leaf out of the great Curtly Ambrose's book: knowing just how to soften and intimidate the batters with vicious bouncers and then throwing in some good-length deliveries for good measure. Not known to be one who can swing the ball prodigiously, he just concentrated on angling his deliveries across the batsmen.
Ishant now boasts a career haul of over 100 scalps in 34 Tests at an average 32.22 and has evidently re-acquired his hunger for wickets. Another banquet awaits him as India takes on England in the most anticipated series of the summer. Will he sustain his appetite?