HE MAY BE PART Flintoff, part Courtney Walsh and part Curtly Ambrose but at home, Ishant Sharma is simply known as Sonu. Sharma, 19, born and brought up in Delhi’s Patel Nagar is the latest epitome of gully cricket. Since the time he took Australia’s three top-order wickets and swung the match in India’s favour last Saturday, anyone who enters the colony is understood to be looking for Sharma’s home.
Through a couple of narrow lanes we reach the most happening place in the vicinity. We talk about Ishant and his mother Grisha Sharma responds with tears in her eyes. “We have no role in this, it’s all God’s blessings and Ishant’s perseverance. He wholeheartedly concentrates on whatever he has at hand. Be it studies or bowling.”
His proud father, Vijay Sharma, an airconditioner dealer is less dramatic. “I am so glad that my business complements the cricket season. Winter is the season of cricket and it is during winters that I have almost no work. Which is why I can easily watch Ishant playing on TV,” he says. Even though Sharma was raised in a middle-class joint family he was never pressured to choose any career but cricket, though an uncertain future is part and parcel of life as an aspiring cricketer. His father tells us the reason. “When I was young I used to play cricket, but I could never make it. This is why when we saw his will to get into this game, we never stopped him.”
Sharma started taking cricket seriously after Class X, after joining Ganga International School. His coach in school, Shravan Kumar, introduced him to a rigorous four-day practice schedule at school and another three days of training at the nearby Ramjas grounds. After a round of matches at the school level, Ishant was selected for the Under- 17 Delhi team to play against Punjab. Since then, there has been no looking back.
And though Sharma grabbed a job offer from ONGC after his test debut against Bangladesh last year, his father is worried that he has still not appeared for the Class XII boards. “I don’t want him to study just for a job. Studies are important for overall development. I want him to complete his college degree too.”
Apart from cricket Ishant also loves playing volleyball and football and hanging out with friends. Listening to Punjabi songs, dancing and, most importantly, sleeping are his other major activities of the day. And even though late nights are permitted, Ishant has not yet been allowed to learn to ride a motorbike because he is too young for it. His mother adds, “In fact, except for international matches, Ishant has always been escorted by his father or uncle to his tournaments.”
So how mature is Sharma to handle the sudden media attention? His elder sister Eva, a third year student of fine arts at Delhi University, provides the answer. “He never discusses ground activities at home or among his friends. Neither does he talk to outsiders about what is happening inside his home. Thus, there is no way he can flaunt or boast and have airs about him. He is his normal self and knows where to draw the line.”
When asked if Ishant has changed since he started playing international tournaments, his mother replies, “Earlier, I used to make kachauris and he used to like them. Now he is conscious about his health and does not like fried food at all. He even stops his sister from eating it.”
GIVEN THE excitement, a number of Ishant’s cousins have already decided to follow his lead. Says his uncle Sunil Sharma, “Two boys have started going for practice but we have told them ‘Go only if you are determined. You will succeed only because you have talent and not because you are Ishant’s brothers.’ ”
Right now the only thing worrying all the kids in the house is that Ishant is getting no time off from his matches to buy t-shirts for them. The rest of the time, they are hanging over the balcony, yelling at visitors. “Didi, Ishant Sharma’s house? This one!”
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 7, Dated Feb 23, 2008