Ishant Sharma's lack of rhythm can be attributed to lack of game time and it would take a couple of Test matches for him to get back into the groove, India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said on Wednesday in his assessment of the seasoned pacer's current struggle.
The only player in the incumbent set-up to have played 100 Test matches, the 33-year-old Ishant had a forgettable tour of England and even in the opening Test against New Zealand in Kanpur, he went wicket-less without ever looking penetrative, unlike his new ball partner Umesh Yadav.
"Ishant hasn't unfortunately played much Test cricket for a long time and didn't play in IPL or T20 World Cup (and) that does make a difference," Mhambrey acknowledged, responding to a query on whether Ishant's lack of rhythm is being addressed.
Ishant, in his last four Tests, has picked only eight wickets and bowled a total of 109.2 overs in these games.
In the second phase of IPL, he didn't get a game for Delhi Capitals nor was he selected for the global event which effectively robbed him of nearly two months of game time.
"We are working on his rhythm and we are aware of it. I am sure he needs a couple of games to get that rhythm going. He will be back for sure," Mhambrey seemed hopeful.
In this set-up, the man with 300 plus wickets not only has the duty get opposition out but also has to be a mentor to the younger crop of bowlers like Mohammed Siraj and Prasidh Krishna.
"He has got enough experience under his belt and it makes a huge difference to have him in the dressing room," Mhambrey, a former Mumbai seamer, said.
"With the experience that he has and an opportunity for some other bowlers to spend time with him and understand the nuances of fast bowling, is of great help," the bowling coach outlined the senior player's broader responsibilities.
While he didn't commit if Siraj will get a game in Mumbai considering that the Wankhede surface has bounce and the rainy weather could mean underlying moisture which will aid swing bowling, Mhambrey seemed very happy with how Umesh Yadav bowled on an unresponsive track in Kanpur.
"Very happy, especially in the way Umesh bowled in the second innings. One spell that he bowled, he really troubled Kane (Williamson). It was a positive and I was happy to see that happen on that pitch. It was a special spell and he tried his best," he added.
The bowling attack had 52 balls to get New Zealand's last pair of Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel out but could not.
Mhambrey, in their defence, said that on any other track with a bit more bounce, the silly point or forward short leg would have come into the picture in the final hour where it was a matter of "just one ball".
"There's a lot of positives we can take from the last game.
Obviously, we didn't win the game but I am very happy with the effort that we have put in. It wasn't easy to get 19 wickets on that track.
"It wasn't an easy wicket and we were unlucky at times with not much bounce on the wicket and couple of edges that didn't carry. Had that happened, we would have had a different result. I am extremely happy with the effort that everyone put in on that wicket. "
'No discussion on Pujara-Rahane form'
"We know there is a lot of experience behind them and they have played enough cricket. We also know as a team that they are one innings away from coming to form," Mhambrey repeated what head coach Rahul Dravid had said at the end of the Kanpur Test.
"As a team, everyone is behind them and backing them, they know the value they bring to the team and experience that they have.- They will come good, really not having any discussion around them. "They have played enough cricket to understand what is expected or required to get going," he said.
Will take a call closer to game: Mhambrey on Saha’s availability
The bowling coach said that the team management would take a call on Wriddhiman Saha’s availability closer to the match.
“The physios are in touch constantly with the head coach Rahul (Dravid) and obviously Virat (Kohli) now and as we get closer to the game, we will take a call and see what condition he is in,” Mhambrey said.
Stiffness in the neck did not allow the India wicket-keeper to take the field on Day five of the first Test.
K S Bharat, who could make his debut on Friday, kept the wickets in his absence.
Saha scored a fighting unbeaten 61 on Day four to put India in a strong position after the hosts lost five wickets for 51 runs. Bharat has a triple hundred as an opener and his inclusion would mean that both Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane would remain in the playing eleven.
Mhambrey heaped praise on Saha for his effort in the Kanpur Test.
“But obviously with whatever he (Saha) has been through, I think (it was a) fabulous effort in the last Test match to bat in that. It was painful, we realise that but he put his hand up and (said) the team wanted it and he delivered it for the team, really happy to see that,” added Mhambrey.