New Delhi, Oct 27 (UNI) When the Indian Premier League roadshow stopped here, the pace sensation Ishant Sharma plucked up the nerve to approach the former Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath to ask him some bowling tips.
IPL made Sharma an instant millionaire (and a Kolkata Knight Rider despite his Delhi roots), but the shy teenager who idolised the Australian, wanted McGrath to help him become a successful Test fast bowler.
McGrath, who was representing the Delhi Daredevils, took time out during a practice session to answer the young Indian's questions.
''Ishant asked him for some tips; how to read batsmen and identify their weaknesses,'' Shravan Kumar, who discovered Sharma when he was a schoolboy, said yesterday.
In Sharma, McGrath might have seen a kindred spirit, a reserved and lanky young man with a relentless aim at the top of off stump and who came of age when challenging a superpower.
For McGrath, that moment was Australia's 1995 tour of the West Indies, the series that tilted the balance of power in world cricket and began more than a decade of Australian dominance. For Sharma, it is Australia's 2008 tour of India.
Sharma is 192 centimetres tall and still growing. He is accurate, menacing, creative and captivating, the leading wicket-taker in the series so far and a constant danger to Australian captain Ricky Ponting, whom he has dismissed five times in as many Tests since their fascinating rivalry began in Australia last summer.
With Zaheer Khan he is half of a rampaging duo that has confounded the Australian batsmen with the new and old ball.
At 20, and after just 11 Tests, Sharma has drawn comparisons with McGrath, Curtly Ambrose and Javagal Srinath.
''He has got me well-covered,'' McGrath said this week. ''He is tall and skinny with a ridiculous hair cut. Seriously, though, I have really enjoyed his bowling.'' There are shades of Srinath in Sharma's high arm action and his rare ability to shape the ball into right-handed batsmen, the thing that has bothered Ponting most.
''There are a lot of comparisons, but if you compare me at the beginning of my career I think this guy is far, far better. He is a couple of notches above me at the same age,'' Srinath said.
''There is a lot of talent in India and there are always four or five good fast bowlers, but it all depends on how quickly they can emerge. On flat Indian wickets it can be hard to get rewards and you have to be more creative.
''Sharma has a superb attitude to bowling in Indian conditions.
On Indian wickets you have got to bring the ball back in and he has done that. I would expect him to gain a couple of yards in pace over the next few years, up around 150-155 kmh. Most importantly, he is very keen to play Test cricket, which means he will be successful in all forms of the game.'' UNI CS RJ HS1332