Understanding recovery of my body helped me play this long: Ishant

Pace bowler Ishant Sharma, who is on the cusp of becoming only the second India pace bowler to play 100 Test matches after Kapil Dev, says playing one format — Test cricket — over the last few years, especially abroad, and understanding the process of recovery has helped him get close to the milestone at age 32.

The third India-England Test begins here on February 24.

The right-arm pace bowler, who doesn’t play white ball series, says he will give it all for India to qualify for the World Test Championship final, to be played in June, as it is akin to a ICC 50-over World Cup final for a Test specialist.

“At the moment, the next target is to win the next game. I just want to win the next game and [help India] qualify for the Test championship final. As I always say I have only one format to play and this is like World Cup. The World Test Championship is like a World Cup for me. If we reach the final and win this, I think I will have the same feeling like you play the ICC World Cup final or the Champions Trophy,” Sharma told the media on Monday.

Sharma said an India pace bowler, reaching Kapil Dev’s record of 131 Tests is not on his mind yet and added that playing one format had made it easier to reach the 100-Test mark quickly.

“If you think of it in a positive way, then it gets easier and is better that I performed in one format. You are grateful. This (playing one format) is also why I am playing the 100th Test. But I don’t think that if I had played white ball cricket, I wouldn’t have played 100 Test matches. I am just 32. Maybe I wouldn’t have done it so quickly, I would have done it later,” said the right-arm fast bowler from Delhi.

Sharma said he takes one game at a time.

“I don’t really think too far ahead, because you never know what comes next. You just think about one game at a time. I have understood my body and what kind of training I need to do. I am more professional regarding my recovery. Earlier, I used to train very hard but I never used to think about my recovery. Now though I know that as you grow older, you have to bowl long spells. You need to look after your recovery. I am looking after myself. I think that is paying off,” he said.

Sharma could have played his 100th Test in Australia were it not for a side strain during the Indian Premier League (IPL) that kept him out of that tour. He, however, says that he hadn’t allowed that to upset him.

“I would have loved to go to Australia and complete my 100th Test match. But there are many things that are not in your hand. I couldn’t go to Australia because of that [injury]. The quicker you forget things and move on, the more things become simple in life. This is what I have learnt in my career. Forget everything and move on and don’t think about past. I move on to the next match. And I always focus on the next match,” said the bowler who has been plagued by multiple injuries over the years.

The pace bowler’s performance has been exceptional over the last three years. Since the start of 2018, he has taken 76 wickets in 20 Test matches at an average of 19.34 with four of his 11 five-wicket hauls in his career coming during that period.

“I just played too many Test matches outside India that is why I have been able to take these many wickets, because if you don’t bowl in India, how will you take wickets. In India, spinners bowl a lot; fast bowlers’ role is different. Most of the Tests in last two years, we played outside. That is why I bowled a lot and picked wickets. That is what I feel.”