Ind vs Eng 3rd Test: Virat Kohli calls Ishant Sharma India’s biggest asset as pacer gears up for 100th Test

Ind vs Eng 3rd Test: India skipper Virat Kohli heaped praise on India pacer, Ishant Sharma, ahead of his 100th Test match. The 32-year-old will be the only second Indian pacer to achieve the feat when India take on England in the 3rd Test at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, February 24.

Kohli said, although Sharma could easily prolong his career by focusing on white-ball cricket, it is commendable that he decided against it. “It’s rare to see a pacer have such longevity these days. Ishant could have prioritised white-ball cricket but full credit to him that he didn’t. I am so happy that he is playing his 100th Test and hope he plays for India for many more years,” Kohli said on Tuesday.

Sharma will also enter an elite club on Wednesday as not many active cricketers have played 100 Tests. Among them, the number of pacers is even smaller. Only James Anderson (158) and Stuart Broad (145) — both England pacers — have played more than 100 Tests. A cramped calendar along with T20 leagues have doubled the workload of a fast bowler with injuries being the main roadblock in a speedster’s career.

But Sharma has managed his injuries and workload well after shifting focusing to Test cricket. That has helped him prolong his Test cricket career where he has led India to many memorable wins, scalping 302 wickets.

Since making his Test debut in 2007 at the age of 18 as a third pacer in the team alongside Zaheer Khan and RP Singh against Bangladesh in the 2nd Test in Dhaka, he has remained a regular in the squad. Incidentally, it was Kohli, who was the first person to give him the news of his India selection back in 2007 for the Bangladesh tour and on Wednesday, he will lead Sharma on the field on a special occasion.

“Ishant started playing state cricket with me. When he got selected for India, he was sleeping and I had to kick him to give him the news. That’s how far we go. We have great trust between us. I’ve been very happy to see him enjoy his bowling over the years,” Kohli said.

Change in role

While he did not have a fascinating debut, he soon found success. Against Pakistan in Bengaluru, Sharma scalped five wickets in the match. But it was During the Australia tour in 2008 that he is remembered for. Still a teenager, Sharma’s pace and bounce troubled Australian great Ricky Ponting.

In his only second year of Test cricket, Sharma had 38 Test wickets but then, the role changed under MS Dhoni. He was Dhoni’s go-to man to hold the front from one end and let the other bowlers attack from the other. The change in the role did not help his stats as wickets dried up but he soon settled in the role well.

However, following a brief county stint with Sussex in 2018, Sharma became an attacking fast bowler. With help from former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie, Sharma became India’s leading wicket-taking pacer. Before 2018, he had managed 226 wickets from 79 Tests. But following the stint, he has scalped 76 wickets in only 20 Tests. In the last five Test matches alone, Sharma has scalped 22 wickets.