India have taken a giant stride in terms of pace bowling in Test cricket under the leadership of Virat Kohli. Besides dominating under favourable conditions (overseas), the pace unit has also shown that it has emulated the same even on Indian conditions. The opener against Bangladesh in Indore was another site of their ruthlessness where the troika of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma picked 14 wickets between themselves in India's third consecutive innings win at home. But while Shami's yet another second innings performance stole the show on Saturday, Ishant Sharma's stunning dismissal of Shadman Islam went seemingly unnoticed, a dismissal reminiscent of how Stuart Broad had dismissed David Warner at Lord’s earlier in the Ashes this year.
If you have closely followed through his recent rise in Test cricket, Ishant has taken a keen interest in left-handed batters and has been honing his bowling to grow more effective against this variety. And largely through the first innings, Ishant was seen trying to execute that perfect delivery. The trick was to keep the length full and wide and get the ball moving away from the stumps, hence enticing the batsman to play the drive and end up providing the thick outside edge. And after 23 deliveries against Shadman down the same region and holding the same length, the opener edged one straight to Wriddhiman Saha after failing to drive.
In the second innings, Ishant kept the line same against Shadman but altered his length between good and full. Six of his first 12 deliveries against the opener were let alone while no false shots were induced. The 24-year-old was handling Ishant's tactic more cautiously in the second innings and even the deliveries that were straightening up at a close distance.
By his third over, Ishant had begun trying his new artillery but he failed to get the length right and two of his fuller deliveries were tucked down the leg side by Imrul Kayes (also a left-handed batsman) and Shadman. And then, there was one where Ishant had shortened the length and angled the delivery back into the left-hander (6.4 overs). The ball had taken the inside edge and fell right in front of Ravindra Jadeja at gully. A delivery later, Ishant cast that magical delivery. It was pitched outside off and the ball jagged back in sharply, sneaking through the gate. Shadman looked set for a drive, but was tad late in bringing the bat down. The ball took the inside edge and hit the top of the middle stump.
Now go back to all the dismissals of Warner in Ashes 2019 inflicted by Broad. In most of his deliveries, Broad had tried to set Warner up with the ones moving away from the stump before slipping in the nip-backer.
"Actually, he started working on that variation from yesterday," India's bowling coach B Arun said in the post-match conference.
"If you look at the way he signalled after he got the wicket, he was very happy that he could do that," Arun continued. "Each time you try to explore new avenues in your bowling, you constantly look to improve. And this would give him the much-needed fillip to experiment more and try out."
Earlier last month, in an interview with The Cricket Monthly, Ishant had talked about bowling around the wicket to left-handers and creating the angle with the crease.
"A lot of people pointed out I should bowl close to the stumps. But if I bowl close to the stumps then the chances of me hurting my back are increased. Because for me to get the ball in to the batsman, I would be falling off to the left. That would take a toll on my body. There would be a possibility of me picking up a stress fracture. I could hurt my ankle, hurt my knee," he had said. "I realised I would need to bowl from the centre of the box or go wide of the crease. I realised that if I go close to the stumps, I cannot swing the ball. In international cricket, no matter how fast you are, if you cannot swing the ball or you cannot move it in some way, then it is very difficult to get a batsman."
On being asked if the strategy would eventually become predictable for the batsman, Ishant added, "With that angle it is very difficult for the batsman to leave the ball. The batsman thinks that the ball is coming close to him, but with my action the ball is moving away. He has that fear [at the back of his mind] that if the ball goes straight, it can hit the stumps. To make sure that he does not let happen or get lbw, he feels he has to play that ball. That is why that angle is dangerous.