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India vs South Africa | Having an Impact and Winning Games for the Team Matters the Most: Ishant Sharma

After 92 Test matches and 278 wickets at the age of 31, Ishant Sharma is by far the most experienced pacer in the Indian bowling set-up but for him seniority or being the spearhead of the attack is all white noise and all he could care about is adding more numbers to the wickets column.
Speaking to Cricket Monthly, Ishant outlines that hardwork, sacrifice and an honest work ethic are among the things he swears by.
“I have cut down on a lot of things. For example, straight after returning from the Caribbean recently, I had the opportunity to relax for a week or ten days before resuming training.
"Earlier after returning from any tour I would take it easy for a while, but this time I did not do that. The jet-lag was there, but I have become disciplined with my lifestyle. Yes, I want to spend time with my family, but my wife works, my parents have their own schedule.
"So instead of just staying home, doing nothing, I went running for a bit, I went to the gym. Because for a fast bowler his body is everything. Also, I have cut down a lot on what I eat. At least twice a month my mom makes aloo ki kachori, which is deep-fried.
"It is very tempting, but I do not eat. She will make kheer, but I will not eat. My parents complain I don't eat what they want me to. They think you need to eat ghee, drink milk, eat parathas with ghee to get strong. But I have given all that up."
“Bowling 138-140 kph for so long after so many years is not easy. It is because of the fitness. If I don't to the gym, I feel empty, as if I have done nothing.”
The 31-year-old fast bowler is more than happy to put in the hard yards simply because of the results it eventually brings and helps him achieve his target of becoming an ‘Impact Player’, a target he believes he has achieved. And the numbers and personal accolades don’t excite him much either.
“After having experienced so many ups and downs from when I started, all that matters is to win a game for the team. How big an impact player are you? Yes, I will be great if I play 100 Tests. I will be great even if I don't play 100 Tests. But how much of an impact player am I?”
Ishant is closing in on overtaking his mentor and former India fast bowler Zaheer Khan in terms of wickets, which would then make him only second to the great Kapil Dev. For a while, however the situation wasn’t as good for Ishant as he suffered from bad form before turning a corner by going back to domestic cricket with Delhi.
“Delhi made me the captain. After that, things started changing. I had added responsibilities. I began to feel like I am the only one who can take wickets and who can win games for Delhi. Since then I have been playing with the same kind of mindset.
"In my first Ranji Trophy match as captain, against Assam, I took a five-for. Then I was selected in the Test squad against Sri Lanka. I played Ranji - again I got wickets [11 in two matches]. Then I played the Nagpur Test and things have been going well since then.
“I just want to take wickets. As long as wickets are coming, I am happy. I know what I am doing and why. I keep things very simple. Why I am here in the team?
"If you have played 90 Tests or 140 Tests or only ten - why are you here? I am here to take wickets, score as many runs as possible and help the team win the game.”
Ishant will undoubtedly be looking to add to his wickets tally and torment the visiting South Africans in the three Test match series which marks the start of the home season, generally a difficult season for the fast bowlers as conditions are more conducive to spin.
That, however, is unlikely to bother him and former India trainer Shanker Basu seconds that when he says that Ishant is as relentless as another Delhi cricketer – Virat Kohli.
“Before entering the ground I had only thought of one thing: until they were not all out, I would not stop bowling,” Ishant clarifies.
“I told him (Virat Kohli) that until I tell you I am tired, don't take the ball away from me. The great thing about him was, he never asked.
“Now I only think: if I don't take wickets even in one innings I am done. I am not going to play for India again.
“It is a good pressure. It is a challenging pressure. You are here to take wickets. Everyone tells me you are the senior. But how do you become a senior?
"Not by the amount of years you have played. Seniority should be by the amount of wickets you take. People will call me senior when I take wickets at a crucial time.”
Ishant further explains that he is most accountable to himself and touches upon the victory celebrations he skipped in Adelaide in 2018.
“It was a close game. And if I am playing for so many years and making that kind of a mistake (no-ball), it is a big mistake. To be honest, I felt like a fool.”
"And I felt like I should do the job for the team - especially in close games. I had already got [Aaron] Finch out in that match, but it was again a no-ball.
"It hurt, but I didn't feel that bad. But later on, the win was on the line. All kind of thoughts pass through your mind at the time. Suppose we had lost that match, it is not about what people would say about me, it is about what you feel yourself.
"So at the time I felt that [the no-balls] were my fault. If I keep hiding my faults under the carpet then you won't improve as a person and as a cricketer.”

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