He might be the most experienced among all the current 'Men in Blues' (including captain Virat Kohli) - having made his debut in 2007 & played 94 Test matches in 12 years - yet a rookie cricketer Shadab Nadeem replaces him in playing XI in the 3rd Test against South Africa in Ranchi. It's quite ironic that Ishant Sharma never gets dropped due to injury, nonperformance, disciplinary ground or any other reasons yet he often loses the race as a frontline bowler or the top two pacers if India decides to go with "three-spinner option."
Even Ishant's coach Shravan Kumar feels Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav are better options as they are among the wickets while Ishant has managed to take only 3 wickets in the 40 South African wickets Indian bowlers had taken in the first two Test matches.
"He is not bowling badly. He continues to be a very good bowler who comes hard at the batsmen but he is unlucky not to get the wickets. Shami and Umesh are getting more wickets. Naturally, they are the better options," the large-hearted coach told Republic TV in an exclusive interview today.
Ishant is all poised to take 300 wickets by next year but its quite likely that he will consume around 100 Tests to achieve that -- that will make him the slowest bowler (longest time or maximum matches took) in Test history.
"He is certainly a great and genuine fast bowler but he has been a little unlucky not to have taken 350 wickets by now. I don't think he will be able to break Kapil Dev's record of 434 wickets in Test (highest by an Indian fast bowler) but he will get past Zaheer Khan (311 wickets) and eventually become the second-best fast bowler in Indian Test history."
Ishant's strike rate is 63.2 which means he takes over 10 and a half overs to get a wicket which is quite average by top fast bowling standards. Now, let's compare this to the best current fast bowlers in the World. Dale Steyn strike rate is 42.3 for his 439 wickets, Mitchel Starc (50 for 215 wickets), Vernon Philander (49.9 for 216 wickets), Trent Bolt (55 for 254 wickets), James Anderson (56.2 for 575 wickets) and Stuart Broad (57.7 for 467 wickets).
Ishant's coach advice to him was to continue to do the hard work but also try to play more intelligently to get more wickets.
"He should use more intelligence, then he will get more wickets. At one point of time, he was the best fast bowler in the world. He should have applied his mind a little bit more to carry on with the tag."
In 2008, Ishant was regarded as the most explosive fast bowler -- bowling at a speed of 150 plus and taking wickets of the likes of Ricky Ponting at will forcing the great batsman to say "currently Ishant is undoubtedly the best fast bowler in the world". But 280 wickets in 94 Test matches just don't fulfill the great expectations the cricketing world had from Ishant - a far superior bowler than the statistics suggest and someone who should be replaced by a rookie spinner.