Ishant Sharma will make his maiden foray into county cricket when he turns out this summer for Sussex in Division Two of the English County Championship. Ishant will play the first two months of the season.
He will be available from April 4 to June 4, thus being eligible for five championship games and all eight domestic 50-over matches.
Ishant, the 29-year-old paceman from Delhi, becomes the second Indian after Cheteshwar Pujara to take the county route as preparation ahead of India’s tour of England later this year. Like Pujara, Ishant too had gone unsold in the Indian Premier League 2018 auction in Bangalore last month.
There had been suggestions last year, at the end of India’s Test tour of Sri Lanka in August, that Ishant might have a short county stint, but that didn’t bear fruition. This current stint will serve as an ideal workout ahead of India’s five-Test series in England, starting in Birmingham on August 1.
Ishant, who made his Test debut in Dhaka in May 2007, has taken 234 wickets from 81 matches with seven five-wicket hauls. He played a key role in India’s stunning victory at Lord’s on the last tour in 2014 when he took 7 for 74 in England’s second innings with a series of short deliveries that the batsmen repeatedly pulled down the fielders in the deep.
Having been in and out of the Test side for a large part of his career, he has established himself as a near-certainty in overseas Tests in recent times. He finished with eight wickets in two Tests in South Africa last month after having missed the opening Test in Cape Town through illness. He is certain to benefit from interacting with Jason Gillespie, the former Australian paceman who is the Sussex head coach.
“It’s a great honour to represent Sussex CCC, the oldest first-class county, and I am looking forward with excitement to my maiden stint in county cricket,” Ishant was quoted as saying by the county’s website.
“I would like to extend a special thanks to Sussex for taking note of my ongoing performances and deeming me suitable for this opportunity. I hope to add value during my time as part of the Sussex family this season.”
Gillespie added: “We’re delighted to secure the services of an experienced and very skilful international seamer. We believe Ishant will fit right into the Sussex dressing room and we are all really looking forward to welcoming him to Hove.”
Sussex begin their Division Two campaign away to Warwickshire in Birmingham on April 13, the opening day of the championship.
Ishant is Sussex’s second Asian signing this season. Last week, Rashid Khan, the Afghanistan legspinner, was snapped up by the Sussex Sharks for the first half of the T20 Blast, England’s domestic 20-over competition.