If a lawsuit was to be filed against Ishant Sharma for poor bowling, I may well have opted to become his lawyer. To most, my job would have appeared tough but a look at the statistics from the series so far show a glaring escape route - they reveal, surprisingly, that the lanky pacer has not been the worst performer!
Before we dabble into the now much-ridiculed 48th over at Mohali, here is an analysis of how Ishant has fared vis-a-vis other bowlers - both Indians as well as Australians - in this series.
1st T20: (Scorecard)
Ishant Sharma bowled four overs which cost a whopping 52 which meant an economy rate of 13. So? Ashwin bowled two and cost 41 (economy of 20.50). Although not noted for his bowling, Virat Kohli went for 24 off his two. For Australia, Clint McKay bowled four and cost just two less than Ishant while Mosies Henriques was whacked for 15 off his solitary over.
While McKay did claim two wickets unlike Ishant, Kohli, Ashwin and teammate Henriques, shouldn't the fact that bowlers were pelted at large be factored into every argument against the Delhi pacer?
1st ODI: (Scorecard)
Australia won the toss, batted first and blasted Ishant's seven overs for 56 runs. However, the tourists also targeted Vinay Kumar (9 overs for 68; economy of 7.55) and Kohli ( one over for 12).
Track may have favoured spin more than pace but isn't it blasphemy for a team's main fast-bowler to be bullied by the opposition? True and sometimes, 'atrocious' bowling just cannot be justified - this being one of those occasions. Even still, Kohli did go on the record and say a player cannot be dropped because of one poor performance. (Read here)
2nd ODI: (Scorecard)
Ishant Sharma was not, repeat, was not the most expensive bowler in this match.
Figures of bowlers returning expensive figures, from worst to 'best':
Shane Watson: 5/0/47/0 (Economy: 9.40)
Clint McKay: 7/0/64/0 (Economy: 9.14)
Yuvraj Singh: 4/0/35/0 (Economy: 8.75)
Glenn Maxwell: 5.3/0/48/0 (Economy: 8.72)
James Falkner: 7/0/60/1 (Economy: 8.57)
R Vinay Kumar: 9/0/73/0 (Economy: 8.11)
Ishant Sharma: 9/1/70/0 (Economy: 7.77)
Yes, Ishant did bowl a maiden in a 700-plus match!
3rd ODI: (Scorecard)
Here is where the script got totally warped for poor Ishant. Who would have known that the 48th over would make him the butt of all jokes?
But did you notice in the midst of the anguish and anger that the 25-year-old had cost just 33 in his first seven overs! He even dismissed a dangerous Aaron Finch! And in a match where Watson's eight cost 74 albeit 'more consistenly', Ishant emerged as the 'most-hated' because of six nightmarish deliveries.
No one deserves accolades for being best in a crop of worst. No one deserves credit for bowling seven overs cheap only to throw it all away in the eight. No one deserves to be let off the hook for being the main cause of a defeat and yes Ishant was responsible for handing over the match.
Similarly however, Ishant doesn't deserve to be the sole target after repetitive and collective bowling failures. Ishant does not deserve to be blamed for all the defeats before his one 'unforgivable' mistake. And Ishant surely does not deserve to be hauled up, especially at a time when cricket pundits are highlighting the possible extinction of bowlers at large, courtesy shorter boundaries and fielding restrictions. (Ian Chappell's warning)
Whether Ishant is India's worst or he is too ordinary to be in the side or a man not playing to his potential while others like Zaheer Khan stand in the waiting is not for me to comment on. Opinions and predictions aside, the above statistics from the series however do reveal that here is a cricketer who has been unfairly made the mascot of horrendous bowling while most others hide their consistently bad figures by citing Ishant's fateful six deliveries in Mohali.