Ishant Sharma turned 25 on 2 September 2013. With 51 Tests and 65 one-day internationals to his name, the Indian quick can be called "experienced." Yet, he's not had the best experiences on the international circuit.
Despite his tall physique and a work-hard attitude, Sharma has the DNA of what could make for a really threatening fast bowler. His high-arm action and his tall frame, means that he can often reach speeds of up to 140km/h. Speed is important, of course, but accuracy matters more. That's something Sharma hasn't quite managed consistently.
A fast bowler, if managed properly, should play until he's into his early 30s. As things stand for Sharma now, it's hard to see him manage to keep his place in the Indian team until he's 27. Here's an overview of his career and a glimpse into where he might head in the future.
To date, Sharma's most successful year in Tests statistically was 2011. He took 43 wickets in 12 matches at an average of 36.69. He did not go without a wicket once in a Test that whole year and took 10 for 108 against the West Indies in Bridgetown in a drawn Test.
Sharma's Test Bowling Statistics by Year
Table via Howstat
Sharma's average has never dipped below 30.00. He has done well in India, taking 62 of his 144 Test wickets there. With subcontinental pitches usually favouring spinners, it's an achievement Sharma can be proud of.
However, his frustrating inconsistency is something which has troubled him. He can go from bowling a perfect line and length in one over to being dismally inaccurate the next. Sharma can also go from having a belting game to being rendered useless in the next.
For example, early on in his career, he took a five-wicket haul against Pakistan, went wicketless in Sydney against Australia and then took five wickets again two games later.
He has been out of sorts in Tests lately and has taken just 23 wickets in the last 15 Tests he has played. That's not quite good enough for a strike bowler. If those kind of performances continue, he'll find himself out of favour fairly soon.
Sharma has done far better in one-day cricket. It might be down to the fact that he doesn't have to bowl in such long spells and that he doesn't have to carry on when he does get frustrated. He's taken 94 wickets at an average of 30.02 in the format and 2013 has been his most successful year to date.
Sharma has 29 wickets in 17 one-day internationals this year at an average of 25.03. That's his lowest average thus far in ODIs and he has equalled his previous highest tally of wickets in a calender year. He took 29 wickets in 2009, too, but those came in 21 matches.
Sharma's ODI Bowling Statistics by Year
Table via Howstat
Sharma had a good outing in this year's Champions Trophy, finishing as the fourth-highest wicket taker. He managed 10 sticks at an average of 21.80, including best figures of three for 33.
However, even in that tournament, Sharma was inconsistent. He was hit all around the park against South Africa, conceding 66 runs in eight overs and taking just two wickets.
He looked slightly off colour in his opening spell against Sri Lanka in the semi-final, but still managed three wickets for 33.
In the final, where the match was truncated to 20 overs, he conceded 36 in four overs, but took two very good wickets. He dismissed Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara off two consecutive balls after he had just been hit for a six and bowled two wides in succession.
That kind of up-and-down performance has been the hallmark of his career, both in short bursts and in the greater scheme of things.
Twenty20 internationals has by far brought out the worst in Sharma. He has played just 13 Twenty20 internationals, but has struggled in the format. His average is over 40 and he has just eight wickets to his name. He has gone wicketless in seven of the T20s he's played and his economy rate has only been below six twice in 13 matches.
Here is a list of Sharma's dismissals in T20 internationals:
|Dilshan, T M (SRL)||1||1||2|
|Ryder, J D (NZL)||1||1|
|Mohammad Ashraful (BAN)||1||1|
|Naeem Islam (BAN)||1||1|
|Jayawardene, D P M (SRL)||1||1|
|Mohammad Hafeez (PAK)||1||1|
|Umar Gul (PAK)||1||1|
Table via Howstat
In T20s overall, he has fared slightly better. He's played a total of 81 games with 63 wickets at an average of 34.77. However, he's simply not cut out to play T20s at international level.
Despite all the promise he showed early on in his Test career, Sharma has not lived up to the hype. He is not good enough to have a sustainable career at Test level. Sooner or later, selectors will grow tired of his inconsistency and Sharma will be dropped. This is not a bad thing. He can prolong his cricketing career by playing more one-day cricket and try to refine his T20 skills.
Sharma probably won't get the chop any time soon, though. Expect to still see him against the West Indies and South Africa. The good thing is that he is still young enough to refine his skills and make a comeback. A few stints out at County Cricket will serve him well.
Should all else fail, Sharma can always opt for a movie or theatre career as Cousin Itt from The Addams Family. When his hair is long and moppy, he does a perfect impersonation.
We hope that it doesn't come to that for Sharma. His DNA says he should be a good cricketer, one who performs consistently, but there is obviously something lacking a bit. Perhaps if somebody were to sit him down for a good chat, it might go something like this:
Morticia Frump Addams: Cousin Itt, I'm faced with a terrible problem and I know you have a good head on your shoulders. You do have shoulders, don't you?
Cousin Itt: Fize fiz d'fide fuh dehdu d'foo hahie ehh!