Practice English Speaking&Listening with: India's Durable Machine: The Ishant Sharma 100-Test Journey | R Ashwin | Motera | Pink Ball

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A toiler and a hard worker for 13 years, totally and richly deserves the Arjuna Award.

My Indian teammate since I started my own career, now my Delhi capitals teammate.

A workhorse. Several captains have loved working with him.

Such an honour to have you on this show

Thank you, Ash! Thank you very much.

Ishy, let's go back a little in your career. You burst onto the scene as a teenager, right? From U-19 cricket, and straight to Australia, and your tussle with Ricky Ponting.

That is something even now, when you switch on the TV..

That whole thing, even now, when I go on YouTube, that video pops up, because it's a favorite one.

When Ricky plays, the ball actually takes the edge and goes and sits in Rahul Bhai's hands.

But your experience of that whole tour, and how you burst onto the scene, any memories of that?

See, when you are young, you don't have... There are a lot of memories to be very honest.

I can't say that I have a lot of experience with that kind of a tour.

Because I was really young. I was just enjoying myself and bowling fast. I don't know anything else.

I played First class cricket, all you are looking there is, how many overs you can bowl in a day.

That's what happens in Ranji trophy. I had been bowling 20-25 overs in a day, so I'm used to it.

And that's the same thing happened in that test match.

So, at the time, I wouldn't say I gained a great deal of experience, but I did learn that International Cricket is all about bowling in good areas and having patience.

That's what I learned and that's what I keep on doing. That's it.

You followed the basics very clearly and that's something you keep telling even today.

Even during the bowler's meetings, you keep harping on the same thing: Keep it simple and follow the basics.

But when you met for the first time with Sachin Paaji, Rahul Bhai and Anil Bhai. In fact, Anil bhai was the captain for that tour in 2007-2008.

Who handed your cap to you, and what did they tell you?

Actually, Anil Bhai gave me my cap and it was in Bangladesh.

He said, "Nothing has changed, just keep on doing what you have been doing for your state", so I just did that.

He said one more thing: "If you want to try something new, just set that thought aside for now, because we won't be able to build pressure otherwise"

According to me, that's test cricket. Because he was drawing from his experience.

But I was so young that I did not really understand how having experience helps.

So people keep saying, "Do this, do that", by drawing from their experience, but we need to experience all this on our own, right?

Yes, this comes from your own experiences, from your bowling, learning from your failures.

Only then, you understand the different aspects of your own bowling.

Unless you do this yourself in the nets, fail, learn from your failures. That's why it is said that failure is very important for a person.

I feel that when you learn from your failures, you become a better human, and get better in whichever field you are in.

I have learned a lot from my failures.

Ok, we have begun with some serious stuff, but we'll then move on to lighter stuff.

In your first test tour in 2007-08, there was an unbelievable test match. You were so young, you just made your debut.

You got Ricky Ponting out in that memorable spell, after an unbelievable defeat at Sydney, right?

The team was in turmoil. I have heard of stories from Anil Bhai and many of the seniors about how they locked in, with all those things happening with the match referee and the meetings.

As a youngster, what was your role? How did you feel?

Nothing at all. What does a youngster do, Ash? We weren't going to interfere. Whatever seniors say, we'll do. That's it.

I am not asking about what was your role. I am asking you, how did you feel?

When all this drama was unfolding in front of you, how did you feel?

Made no difference to us youngsters. We have a group, right? Even right now. Even at that time, we had a group...

So, we got a message that we are leaving.

So, they had a team meeting where the incidents were discussed and how we were going to respond. I was quiet as it made no difference to me

If we were going to play or if we were going to return home, I was just going to do what the team wanted.

So, all you said was "Give me the ball and I'll bowl. If not, I'll field."

Exactly. All I thought was, I have come to play, if you want me to bowl, I'll bowl. If you want me to return home, I'll do that.

So all you were concerned about was, bringing your whites, kit bag and shoe to the ground, keep your kit bag in the ground.

My kit bag also got stolen and I did not even have shoes.

Whoa! So, your kit bag got stolen on that tour?

No, no, it happened in England, where I made my ODI debut.

My kit bag got stolen. I did not even have shoes, and I was like, wow, what a debut!


Ishy, everyone knows, you rate Mahi Bhai so highly.

And he has been one of the pillars and cornerstones of your bowling career also.

Two things: Your relationship with Mahi bhai and your long hair. These are two things that people of India will never forget.

Mahi bhai has retired, off late. How was the feeling? What did you feel like? Because I am sure you remember when he retired from tests in Melbourne, we all went to his room.

Let me talk about that test match in Melbourne. I felt very bad, because as you know..

I had taken a few injections during that test, because of the pain in my knee.

We didn't know he was going to retire because we were playing a test.

During that test, like I said, I was taking an injection every session.

When it was almost Tea, on day 4, and I think Australia was about to declare..

I told Mahi bhai, "I can't take anymore injections." And he said it was alright, don't bowl now.

I think he said something like "Lambu, you have deserted me in a Test match."

"You've deserted me in my last test match."

I said, "Mahi Bhai, if I had known, I would have definitely bowled."

So I think it was a very touching story. Even I didn't know till the last day that he was retiring.

Even I didn't expect it because Mahi bhai had 93 or 94 tests until then, and everyone felt...

But whenever I used to hang out with him, like in England, during meals...

Actually you know him, he is not a man of numbers. So, he always thinks about what's good for the team.

He told me, "Reaching the milestone of 100 tests is not a big deal for me. The next series is in India."

He was thinking about how to groom Saha as we had a long season coming up in India. So, I think he retired because of that.

Ishy, moving on from your career itself. When I came into the Indian team, you were already the lead bowler.

Because Zaheer Bhai was almost at the end of his career.

As a fast bowler in India, playing 99 tests is a massive achievement.

Because 99 tests as a fast bowler, is such a difficult yardstick, and that too in India..

Now Jimmy Anderson has played 160 tests, and got 600 wickets. And you are just 31. And you have got a good 7 years to reach where Jimmy Anderson is now.

Ok, you have still got 6 years, if Jimmy Anderson's yardsticks are to be followed. What do you think?

600? Maybe, 300, double it up?

Ash, it's all about fitness, man. I don't really think about what's going to happen in 4 years' time or 6 years' time.

I'll keep on bowling till the time I am fit.

Because when I was on 95 tests, people were like "Oh, 5 to go", when I reached 96, they were like "oh, 4 to go". After which I got injured so many times, that I stopped counting.

I started playing one test match at a time, so it's better for me..

I don't really think about things like, "I have to play 100 tests or I have go and play for 4 more years for the country."

I don't really think about all these things.

Now, moving on, Ishy. You started off bowling those banana in-swingers as a bowler to start off with.

This will be a great learning for lot of fast bowlers, right?

Big in-swingers. And then, I don't know. You wanted to straighten the ball or something.

Then, in-between, you have told me yourself. That the in-swingers didn't swing enough.

And suddenly, you have rediscovered your in-swinger. Version: 2.0

And now, you have got the knuckle-ball also.

Can you talk us through this phase where you lost it, got it back and your knuckle-ball?

See, that in-swinger was always there for me.

So, I don't need to work really hard with the in-swing.

Because it was natural.

Where I lost it, after surgery, in 2012.

I had thought that I don't need to bowl much.

Because after the surgery, I was thinking I needed to protect myself.

But what I realized later on was that, after surgery, your body changes totally.

You don't even know about that actually.

So, you are rusty. Imagine that you don't even bowl for 6 months.

How does it feel? Even you are not training or running.

If I am running, I am good.

But I am not running or training. I was training, but I was doing lot of lifting and everything.

I was running and as time passed, I realized running suits my body. And the more I run, the less rusty my body became.

And when I realized I needed to bowl, I slowly and gradually started bowling like how I used to when I was 17.

And when I bowled then, my coach would give me the ball at 1 in the afternoon and I would bowl till sunset.

Until sunset! What time did you say you started bowling?

1 in the afternoon. I had to bowl for 5 hours straight.

Ishy, theres this trend called workload management where fast bowlers are expected to not bowl too much before a match.

How does one strike a balance between workload management and bowling?

For a young fast bowler coming up the ranks, what advice would you give?

For a young fast bowler coming up the ranks, his priority needs to be his bowling. Only then, he can play more.

How much ever you train and practice, there will be a soreness of the bowling muscles.

You also know, when you bowl 50 overs, the bowling muscles become tight and sore.

After hearing you saying 50 overs itself, I feel tightness in my muscles.

Bowling is a totally different thing.

As a bowler, the more you bowl, the better it is, especially, in the initial stages of your career. Only then, your bowling muscles develop.

Even when you are not getting much time to train and practice, make sure you keep rolling your arm over, whenever you get the time.

Even during the lockdown, I was trying to roll my arm over.

Sometimes one thinks that by training hard in the gym, by lifting heavy weights, one can bowl well, thats not the case.

Of course, that will help and support your bowling, but your priority should be to keep bowling fast, not just lifting weights and working out in the gym

People now give more attention to fitness, which is a good thing.

But the knowledge on how much practice needs to go into batting and bowling has come down.

I was talking to Badri and Balaji on a show, and Badri said that kids these days are able to lift weights easily.

He was saying that these kids need to instead be hitting the top of the off stump, not be spending so much time in the gym.

Hitting the top of off is a very important thing for a fast bowler, right? I have heard a lot of people speak about it. How do you define the importance of this?

To hit the top of off stump, your basics need to be correct. Your length and line need to be perfect.

Simply put, when you hit the right lengths, and lines to hit top of off stump, you can then add on to your skills.

You can then add whatever variations you want to add, after being able to hit the top of off.

It is easy to talk about hitting the top of off stump, but only if you practice bowling, you will be able to hit top of off regularly.

You cant hit the top of off by lifting weights in the gym.

We spoke about top off stump, about technique, but I have one more technique related question to you.

We talk a lot about swing. For example, Bhuvi is able to swing the ball both ways. Saini, the newcomer is able to swing it in.

Umesh swings it away, Shami mostly moves it off the seam, and you swing it in too.

Does swing happen because of the wrist position? How does one swing the ball?

Of course, wrist position is very important to get swing. My wrist tilts inwards, because of which I get good swing.

But these things can happen only when you practice bowling, get your basics right in the nets, bowl at batsmen for long, and try to bowl different balls.

You will learn a lot of things about yourself. Because I bowl a lot, I know how to swing the ball, how to use the old ball, how to reverse swing the ball, you learn all this in the nets.

If I bowl long in the nets, only then I can bowl for as long during a match.

So, whoever is watching Ishant Sharma on this show, please remember, as a fast bowler,

you need to bowl and you don't just be in the gym and keep on saying that you are strong.

Ishy, there is this phrase, leader of the attack. That is something that has stuck with you for the last 10 years.

Ever since Zaheer Khan hung up his boots, you have been the leader of the attack

And what is the kind of responsibility that comes with that tag?

Is there some pressure attached to this responsibility? What are the responsibilities of the leader of an attack?

Ash, I used to think a lot about this.

I used to feel the pressure of this responsibility and what If I dont become one.

The best thing is to let whoever wants this responsibility to take it.

But then the number of matches you have played automatically makes you one.

You dont have an option. You will definitely be made one. You are the leader of the attack.

Tell us what happens when you become one?

I never think that I am the leader of the attack.

I just think about my game and my plans.

You cant be the leader of the attack unless you focus on your bowling and get wickets. When you dont pick up wickets, you can only be out of the attack.


If we weren't in the bubble, I would have given you a high-five.

When youre taking wickets, leader of the attack. When you dont take wickets, out of the attack.


Youll be made to sit out, wear a bib, carry drinks.

These days mask and gloves need to be worn too.


When we play tests, the red ball swings more, you get more help from it(as compared to the white ball)

You got a break from white ball cricket, came as version 2.0 with a new variation like the knuckle ball

One gets the feeling that rules are tilted towards the batsmen in T20 cricket. Do you ever rue about things such as bats becoming bigger, grounds becoming smaller?

Even a mistimed shot can land just beyond the boundary for a 6. Do you think of such things?

I used to think about all this, but then I realized that I cant control any of it and it is better to focus on my own bowling and execute your plans.

Thinking about all this will only make a bowler fear these uncontrollable aspects more(worrying about mishits going for sixes)..

For example Mahi bhais bat is so thick. One might get scared looking at it.

Look at the thickness of Chris Gayles bat.

His bat weighs 2 kilos. We do weight exercises with 2 kilos and he plays with a 2 kilo bat.

Thats why its better for a bowler to focus on his bowling, his plans, where to bowl etc.

You highlighted the word plan. What do these plans sound like?

These days T20 has become a popular format. So, when you play T20s, what sort of plans are made?

What do Ishant Sharmas plans look like?

My plans involve not bowling much in the batsmans strong zone.

Also, what sort of field do I set so that a four becomes a single in T20 format?

So when I bowl at the start of the innings, theres a lot I can try to make batsmen confused, and get them out.

Right, so the planning is straightforward. You place a fielder where the batsmans strong and attack his weakness as well if you can. So, you like to keep it simple

So Ishy, you never thought of being the leader of the attack, but you have become one. We have labelled you one too.

You have already labelled me one and rubber stamped it.

So, it's an unbelievable cupboard that we have. So, how do you see them shaping up?

Is there a difference at the same stage of your career as Ishant Sharma, the bowler to them? Any difference?

See, I played with Rabada last year when he did really well for Delhi Capitals.

Yes, Rabada has come in much later, but I have learned a lot from him. He too keeps it simple while bowling.

Rabada says he gets to his bowling position quickly and watches the batsman till the last moment to see if hes trying something different.

so that as a bowler he can bowl his delivery accordingly. Thats something good I learned from him, to watch the batsman till I release the ball.

Whether hes stepping out or going deep inside his crease. This is something you should learn even from your juniors as well.

Before I head into the rapid fire round, where you have to talk about every cricketer in one sentence in the squad,

I am going to ask you a very, very sensitive question of the day.

See, you have played with Ricky Ponting, the captain, on the field, right?

And then, Ricky Ponting, the coach. Tell me something about Ricky Ponting, the coach and the captain, when you played against him. The difference. Is there any difference?

When he was a captain, he was such a big legend of the game that he could easily have told me Hey, youve just started playing, just go away."

Did he actually say you that?

No, he could easily have. He was that big a player.

But as a coach, I should say that he won't change anything in you.

But I am sure that he will give you a lot of confidence about your game.

Hell tell you, "Whatever you want to do, back yourself and nobody will question you."

I think for a coach, man management of the players in your team is very important. Every player has skill, but as a coach, all you need is man management.

So, I think he manages the players very well.

I will go and ask a few rapid fires on players from DC. You have to give in one sentence or two sentences, your choice

First: Shreyas Iyer.


Rishabh Pant.

Energy. He is a youngster with lot of energy.

Prithvi Shaw?


Now its a favorite of ours: Shikhar Dhawan

I call him Jatt ji. Shikhar Dhawan is a senior to me. He made his Ranji trophy debut way before I did.

About Jatt ji, I cant really think of a word to describe him.

Something about his flute?

Krishnan Kanhaiya.

Amazing. Some foreigners now in the mix. Kagiso Rabada.

Fiery. He is good.

Right. Keemo Paul.

Keemo Paul? He is a fun-loving guy.

I kept the best for the last.

You cannot answer about this person in one line. You have to answer in one paragraph.

Amit Mishra, your best friend.

Mishy Bhai is an interesting character. He is funny person. Not too many people know this about him.

Even I didnt, which is why I asked you.

When you spend time with him, training with him during our Delhi Capitals sessions

He spoke so much that I asked him Didnt you meet anyone during lockdown?

And he said that he was venting out 5 months of frustration.

He wasnt letting anyone else talk. And I was like, Mishy bhai is back to form.

It was a lot of fun meeting Mishy bhai after 5 months in the Delhi capitals nets.

Thank you so much for joining me on this episode.

A lot of people might not know you very well.

But after this one, they would have learnt and known you much better.

Thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you, Ash. Thank you.

The Description of India's Durable Machine: The Ishant Sharma 100-Test Journey | R Ashwin | Motera | Pink Ball