It comes as a huge surprise that Ishant Sharma has been retained in the squad for the last four ODIs against Australia. Ishant has forgotten to bowl at the death.
In each of the last four matches (one T20 and three ODIs), the Delhi pacer has gone for about eight an over, certainly not what you expect from a bowler who is supposed to be the leader of the attack and has played 51 Tests (144 wickets) and 68 ODIs (96 wickets).
In this series, he has conceded 7.87 runs an over, the worst among the three medium-pacers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (one wicket) has gone for 5.37 an over, while R Vinay Kumar’s economy rate is 7.20 (five wickets).
Ishant has picked up only two wickets. So, he has neither been economical nor effective. This makes his selection for the last four ODIs all the more puzzling.
In times like these when the Indian fast bowling unit is a major worry for skipper MS Dhoni (who did not hide his displeasure), Ishant would be better off taking a break, going back to the nets to sort out his problems and come back confident for tougher duels ahead.
It is no secret that Ishant has Dhoni’s backing. The scaptain has defended the lanky pacer’s selection for the last four ODIs, saying changes cannot be made after one or two bad matches.
It’s obvious Dhoni has immense faith in Ishant.
To be fair to the under-fire bowler, Dhoni’s decision to hand him the ball in the rain-affected Champions Trophy final against England worked wonders. Ishant picked up two crucial wickets to swing the match in India’s favour. This after he went for 27 runs in three overs (that game weas reduced to a ‘T20’). India went on to win the title.
But is Ishant in the right frame of mind to reciprocate the confidence shown in him by his captain?
He doesn’t seem to have the confidence to bowl. Having faced so much flak, he appears to be afraid to bowl, feared of getting hit. No wonder he’s dishing out full-tosses and the like. And where are the yorkers?
The upcoming matches — in Ranchi, Cuttack, Nagpur and Bangalore — will be a huge test not just for Ishant but also the other bowlers. By retaining the same squad of 15, it remains to be seen if Ishant will be included in the XI. Or will he warm the bench? If Mohammad Shami or Jayadev Unadkat get the nod, what kind of signal would the team management be sending to Ishant by having him in the 15 but not in the XI?
None of the four venues is bowler-friendly, mind you. While Ishant has become a villain in the eyes of the Indian fans, the other bowlers in the side also need to pull up their socks. While Ravindra Jadeja seems to be going from strength to strength, R Ashwin has hardly teased the batsmen.
Dhoni also expects his part-timers to do well. Let’s hope the full-timers get serious about their business, lest they be reduced to being part-timers!