Ishant played 47 of his 97 Tests under Dhoni’s captaincy, picking 152 wickets at 36.65 between 2008 and 2014. Under Kohli’s leadership, the Delhi pacer has come leaps and bounds, with 107 wickets in 36 Tests at 25.46.
The 32-year-old pointed out that, in India, the onus of picking wickets was on the spinners, and that under Dhoni, he was only asked to stem the flow of runs from one end.
“Mahi bhai [Dhoni] has always backed me,” said Ishant. “Even after my first 50-60 Tests, he never said we’ll look for someone to replace you. To tell you the truth, even after playing 97 Tests, I still don’t understand things like average and strike-rate. I’ve never bothered about these things. If I’m not able to understand them, why should I rely on them? It’s just a number after all.
“If I am bowling in India and the captain tells me to bowl in a way that I concede only 40 runs in 20 overs and that the spinners will take care of picking up wickets, that’s what is important to me. It doesn’t matter to me that my bowling average is around 37. My communication will be with my captain and that’s why Dhoni backed me.”
Ishant Sharma: 178 wickets
James Anderson: 172 wickets
Two fine bowlers 💪 pic.twitter.com/sEzL565vQA
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 29, 2020
The fast bowler has, time and again, credited Dhoni for helping him keep his spot in the team. “There were times that I was supposed to get dropped but I didn’t get dropped,” he had told the Press Trust of India in 2019.
Ishant also talked about the difference between Dhoni and Kohli’s approach to captaincy. “It’s not that my role is any different now,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “When I played under Dhoni, we played a lot in India as compared to overseas, where you bowl more and can pick up more wickets.
“Under Kohli, we have had more away tours. I have, in particular, played in very few home matches under Kohli. The only difference I see is that earlier I was very aggressive. So Dhoni would ask me to calm down. He would often say, ‘If you get a ban, who will bowl?’
“With Virat, it’s different. He says, ‘Just don’t get a ban. Other than that, do what you want to and I’ll take care of the rest!’ There is really no major difference between them. The best thing about them is that they never made me feel insecure about my place in the team. This is a very important aspect in a team sport.”