MS Dhoni groomed the bowlers and left them with Virat Kohli: Ishant Sharma

"There is no match for Mahi bhai as a communicator," said Sharma.

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Ishant Sharma
Ishant Sharma. (Photo Source: Instagram)

In Part 4 of his interview on Home of Heroes on JioCinema, the India fast bowler Ishant Sharma talks about MS Dhoni's captaincy, his understanding of variations, and Virat Kohli's captaincy.

How much time did it take for you to develop an understanding of variations and how to get wickets? 

I realized how to bowl different balls in 2015. At that time, my length was a little short. We were playing in Brisbane in scorching heat. That’s when I understood that I had to try something because the wicket was completely flat. The seam from the Kookaburra had disappeared. So, I held the ball diagonally and thought of bowling it at the fourth stump and see where it goes. After pitching, the ball deviated slightly, and Steve Smith got beaten. After that, in that match, slowly, I switched my line from the fourth stump to the off-stump. 

Then, I went to play county cricket because I wasn’t picked in the IPL auction. Jason Gillespie, a blessing in disguise, was our coach for Sussex. I told him that I wanted to improve my length. He told me, ‘The way you aim to hit a six-meter length, aim to hit a four-meter length.’ That’s when I understood that if you keep learning, you can pick up newer tricks.   

From 2018 to 2021, Virat Kohli was the captain and fast bowlers flourished, especially in longer formats. What did he do as a captain to enable that success?  

First thing, he was aggressive. If you’re bowling with the new ball, you can concede 25 runs in five overs as long as you take two wickets. The important thing was that he gave everyone defined roles. He used to tell me, ‘You have played enough matches, it’s now time for you to step up. Don’t bowl thinking you have to bowl in a particular area, now you have to find ways of getting wickets’. He went to Shami and said, ‘I know you can take wickets, but now I need you to bowl consistently. That you can bowl three overs as maidens’. He went to Bumrah and said, ‘This is your debut, you do what you do, but consistency is most important in Test cricket’. After 2021, I realized he wanted all of us to think out of the box.  

You’ve known Virat since you were kids, played together, and were roommates. Have you seen him change for good as a person and as a captain?

It was quite shocking. I remember we had a break, so he went to the US for some sponsor obligations. At the time, he was trying to reduce his weight. He slept on the flight for 8-9 hours and ate just once. The moment he landed in the US, the first thing he did was go to the gym. These are things not everyone knows, but he had told me what all he did to lose weight. I know how much he loves chhole bhature. For all these years, he completely stopped eating all of that. 

Even now, if he isn’t fielding, he has experimented enough on his body to know when he has to eat carbs and when he shouldn’t. But, if he isn’t running or batting or doing lower-body work, he won’t eat carbs at all.  

Where do you rate Virat as a captain? Was he the best? 

He was the best. When Virat was captain, bowling was complete. When we were playing under Mahi Bhai, we were in a transition phase. At that time, Shami and Umesh were new, and only I was there. Everyone else would rotate. Bhuvi was also new. There is no match for Mahi bhai as a communicator. But what he did was groom the bowlers and leave them with Virat. Shami and Umesh, over time, became different bowlers and then Jasprit came in. So, he got a complete package. The best thing he did was identify everyone’s traits, and he used to talk about one thing with one person and then let them be.  

Which bowing partner did you enjoy the most?

If you look at my, Shami and Bumrah’s numbers – we have done quite well. But for me, I had the most fun with Zak Pa. He kept everything very simple. He told me for reverse swing, the batsman is looking at the shine, so keep the ball in your other hand and start running. If someone keeps everything simple, they benefit you the most. That’s why I enjoyed bowling with him. 

Who is your bowling idol?

My bowling idol was Glenn McGrath.    

What do you think of India’s chances in the 2023 World Cup?

I think we have a great chance. We have the home advantage. You’ll face tough teams but even in 2011, you played against Australia, and you played to your strengths. If they do that, they have a big chance of winning the World Cup.

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