If 1st Test was all about Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami's heroics, then in the 2nd Test, Ishant Sharma has once again proven why he remains one of India's premier fast bowlers, especially in the longest format.
Ishant has been one of the unsung heroes of the Indian team, more often ridiculed than praised by both media and fans alike. But he has again chosen to answer his critics on the field with impeccable performance on a pitch which wasn't exactly tailor-made for fast bowling.
Ishant's consistency in line and length, and his patience showed as he ended with figures of 3/37 in the 1st innings. With India likely to go for three pacers in away tours, this performance might well ensure that he gets a spot in the playing XI come January.
When not playing for team India, Ishant led his Ranji side Delhi and performed well there as well, taking 20 wickets and the team sealed a spot in the quarterfinals. His spell against Ricky Ponting is a tale of legends and that is often been the image that comes to mind when one thinks of Ishant Sharma, what people forget is the fact that he played a vital role for India in other memorable wins such as the Champions Trophy in 2013 and the famous Lord's Test victory in 2014.
Ishant's ability to bowl long spells and find the right line and length early in his spell make him an asset for any captain. He might not get wickets every time but in Test cricket, the lanky pacer has the ability to build pressure which often yields wickets for other bowlers. With Umesh Yadav still struggling to find the right areas, this makes Ishant's role all the more crucial.
Sri Lanka might not be the toughest opposition and the fast bowler's real test will come next year when India embarks on a series of away tours, but so far the signs have been promising to say the least.
The Monk Stamps His Class
Murali Vijay's story is remarkably similar to Ishant Sharma's especially when it comes to recognition. On the weight of his runs, a fit Murali Vijay should walk into the batting line-up of any team in the world but such has been the fight for places in the Indian team that the Tamil Nadu batsman had to make way for Shikhar Dhawan in the 1st Test.
Statistically speaking, Murali Vijay is India's finest Test batsman after Virat Kohli in foreign conditions (outside the sub-continent). Here is a statistical comparison between Vijay, Kohli, Pujara and Rahane which further elucidates this point:
This despite the fact Vijay faces the new ball more often than not, also he averages much better than Virat Kohli in England, which still remains the final frontier for the Indian captain to conquer. What makes Vijay a perfect Test player is his ability to leave the ball, which is a rare ability in this see ball-hit ball T20 era.
He can mould himself according to the situation, as he showed on Friday, when India had to play out the day and he decided to leave everything that wasn't on the stumps. Then, on Saturday he came out all guns blazing and was the aggressor in the partnership with Pujara. This ton against Sri Lanka is his 10th overall and makes him the third most successful Indian Test opener behind Sunil Gavaskar and Virender Sehwag, a remarkable achievement indeed.
India's has been remarkably successful in the last year in Test matches but even Virat Kohli knows, as he often speaks, that his real legacy as a skipper will be decided by away tours. Two important cogs in the team for those tours will surely be Ishant Sharma and Murali Vijay.
First Published: November 25, 2017, 3:24 PM IST