I asked Zak for a pair of size 11 shoes so I could play my debut ODI match: Ishant Sharma

Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan shared the new ball for India in all formats for many years. But their bonding goes even deeper as the senior pacer played an important role in the ODI and Test debuts of the junior bowler from Delhi.

Players have butterflies in their tummies just before making their international debut. Former India pacer Ishant Sharma was nervous and scared well before his debut match for he had to travel alone to join the team in Ireland for an ODI series on an SOS call-up as many players were sick and unavailable.

Ishant, who had played only a few Ranji Trophy matches till then and was selected for the subsequent Test series against England, was leaving Indian shores for the first time and had to travel alone to England and then to Ireland. And to compound his problems, he lost his luggage and kit bag in transit.

So when the then-skipper Rahul Dravid informed him that he will be making his debut in the match the next day, Ishant had not even had a nets session in Ireland nor had proper shoes to play the match the next day. He was loaned his shoes by Zaheer Khan.

“I was more nervous about the whole travel bit than about a match. Somehow, I made it to Ireland, jet-lagged, only to realise that my kit bag was missing. I knew that stuff gets stolen on the train but I had no idea this could happen on a flight,” Ishant Sharma said in Part 2 of his interview on Home of Heroes on JioCinema.

Ishant shared how Zaheer Khan played an important role in his ODI and Test debuts — lending him shoes for one and easing him out in the dressing room for the other, along with the fascinating back stories that led up to the big day.”I slept that night in the clothes I travelled in. I didn’t have my suitcase and my kit bag. I didn’t have any cards back then, so all my money was also there. I never knew what to use between a debit or credit card, so my father just told me to use cash. I didn’t even know I could claim that my kit bag was stolen, so I hadn’t done that.”Rahul Dravid told me that I have to debut the next day and I responded, ‘But I can’t play barefoot!’ I didn’t even practice. I asked Zak (Zaheer Khan) for a pair of size 11 shoes so I could play the match. He gave me some shoes, but my toe kept hurting, but I didn’t care,” Ishant said.

Zaheer was also there to ease Ishant into the team when Ishant made his Test debut in the Bangladesh series. Ishant was totally overwhelmed sharing the dressing room with the star players he had till then watched only on television.

“I remember the Bangladesh series where I made my Test debut. A dressing room with Paaji (Harbhajan Singh), Rahul bhai, Dada (Saurav Ganguly), Yuvi bhai (Yuvraj Singh), and Wasim bhai (Wasim Jaffer) was overwhelming,” he said in the interview.

“I used to sit with Zak and watch them on TV and now suddenly sharing the room with them. I wanted to go and lie down but somehow I controlled my feeling. I couldn’t muster the courage to say a word. Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni) and RP Singh were there. I was in a situation where a goat was surrounded by lions. Zak imagined what I was going through and told me to chill and relax. After that, I felt a lot more comfortable, but I was sitting quietly in a corner,” he said.

Ishant also talked about when he was first selected for the Indian team and the way his father reacted to the news.

“I debuted in Bangladesh. I was at home when I got a call for India selection. I still remember that day, for the first time, I saw my father in tears. They were tears of joy, and he told me this is just the start. I had never hugged my father, we bonded well but obviously, we would have occasional disagreements over certain topics, and he would suppress his emotions. He would want to appear strong. He never imagined this day would come,” said Ishant.



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