Ishant’s aggression has hurt India’s cause: Manjrekar

New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) Former batsman Sanjay Manjrekar has criticised pacer Ishant Sharma for his overt display of aggression during India’s recent tour of Sri Lanka.

Ishant displayed excellent form with the ball as India won the second and third Tests in Colombo to clinch the three-match series 2-1.

But the Delhi pacer’s performance was punctured by frequent confrontations with the Lankan players which saw him being banned for the first Test of October’s home series against South Africa.

Manjrekar feels that Ishant has hurt the Indian team’s cause with his behaviour.

“If the batsman has been given not out a couple of times when the bowler thinks he is out and then the bowler finally gets him out, you can understand the angst against that particular batsman, and the bowler venting his frustration. But Ishant seemed to do it for no apparent reason in Sri Lanka.

“This bowler, who India have been extremely patient with, has let the side down at a vital time. Just when Ishant has hit the form of his life, he is now not available for India’s crucial series opener against South Africa in Mohali, having been suspended for bad behaviour,” Manjrekar wrote in his column for Cricinfo on Tuesday.

“When a wicket falls, it means the batsman has failed and the bowler has succeeded, but it’s the bowler who is angry for some reason. Why should anger follow success,” he wondered.

“When the anger of the victor is aimed at the vanquished, it’s a brawl waiting to happen.”

Ishant had copped a fine after the second Test, but that did nothing to deter him as the pacer went on to target the opposition batsmen in the third game as well.

Manjrekar asserted that it showed that India’s Test captain Virat Kohli and high performance director Ravi Shastri have encouraged Ishant’s behaviour and expressed concern at the fact that they seem intent on continuing with the team’s new-found aggressive approach.

“Ishant kept going from one misdemeanour to the other in Sri Lanka. Even after being docked 65 percent of his match fee in the previous Test for two instances of screaming into the face of a departing batsman.

“There was one instance right towards the end of the last Test that the television cameras did not show. Prasad came out to bat in the second innings with India within arm’s reach of a win. Believe it or not, Ishant was still keen to have a go at Prasad, but Virat Kohli stopped him,” the former middle-order batsman wrote.

“That moment told me that, one, Ishant was not willing to learn a lesson on his own, and two, that perhaps — and this is speculation — he was not talked to sternly enough by the team management for him to have dared to repeat the offence.

“This is where I am a bit concerned with the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri partnership. That the Indians are not trying to tone their behaviour down after Australia, and have got into ugly confrontations with even a team like Sri Lanka, tells me that they don’t see these actions as misdemeanours at all,” he added.

“Perhaps this is all part of their new brand of aggressive cricket. If that’s the case, it does not make any cricketing sense at all. For this version of aggressive cricket has cost India the services of their strike bowler, a player who is in great form, in a crucial Test match.”

The 50-year-old urged the Indians to learn a lesson or two from Lankan fast bowler Dhammika Prasad, who was one of the best performers for the hosts throughout the series.

“Not once as he took his 15 wickets in the series did Dhammika Prasad scream angrily into an Indian batsman’s face. Instead he chose to join his team-mates to savour the moment with a smile. Right there, I thought, was a lesson for Ishant and India to learn,” Manjrekar opined.

“It’s for situations like this that you need older, wiser men around a cricket team, to put some sense into the side, which is basically a bunch of excited twenty-somethings.”

But Manjrekar also had words of praise for Ishant, pointing out that the 27-year-old is a much improved bowler nowadays.

“For far too long he was ‘Unlucky Ishant’, a bowler who came off a very long run-up, bowled his heart out for India, and beat batsmen often enough, though the wickets seemed to elude him.

“Then things started to change for him — the wrist position improved, so the ball started to move laterally after it pitched, unlike earlier, where it would go bolt straight onto the bat after pitching. This also gave him the courage to bowl fuller,” he said.

“Ishant now bowls a lot of balls close to full length, a length that generally gets you wickets in Tests. So it’s not rocket science that his record has started improving: good luck generally follows good performances.”

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