Forget Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Sussex’s overseas signing has gone one better when it comes to staying in touch with his fans.
Ishant Sharma Official is the Indian pace bowler’s own app and he’s already posted pictures and his thoughts since arriving at Hove last week to begin a two-month stint with the county as he acclimatises ahead of India’s tour here later this season.
“I use Instagram and Facebook but the app is the main way I communicate with my fans,” said Sharma. “It’s a good way to keeping in touch.”
While the 29-year-old likes to share his thoughts on his first stint in county cricket he admits that being able to settle in on the south coast without too much fuss makes a pleasant change from cricket-mad India. “Don’t get me wrong, I love it back home that people want to speak to you and say hello but it’s nice to be here and walk down the street, go shopping and be relaxed,” he added.
Sharma had his first run out earlier this week and enjoyed bowling down the slope at Hove in a friendly against Surrey, using the Dukes ball and utilising a pitch which offered surprisingly good pace and carry considering the pre-season deluges which have affected Hove as much as anywhere else.
Now he’s looking forward to the serious stuff. Sussex are among the favourites to return to the first division after a three-year absence but face an early test of their promotion credentials against relegated Warwickshire at Edgbaston on Friday.
Head coach Jason Gillespie will be without two of his potential match-winners, Chris Jordan and Jofra Archer, for their first five games because of IPL commitments. With George Garton ruled out with a side strain, much could depend on how quickly Sharma adapts to English conditions again. The omens are good. He enjoyed his Test-best figures here when he took 7 for 74 at Lord’s in 2014.
Sharma is likely to share new-ball duties with Stuart Whittingham and even in the absence of Jordan and Archer he has no doubts about the quality of Sussex’s seam attack.
“Someone told me that Sussex’s bowling attack was the best in England and from what I’ve seen that is true,” he said. “I’ve always been a team player and if I can help the other guys improve then great because it will have a benefit to Sussex as well. I’m looking forward to it. The pitches here tend to offer more bounce, I’ve had success with the Dukes ball before and it will be good to learn about conditions, which can change from session to session in England.”
Gillespie is making no bold predictions ahead of Friday’s Championship opener. “Managing expectations is a challenge. If you focus on the end result you can forget what’s in front of you,” he said. “It’s a bit like trying to climb Mount Everest, you’ve got to get to base camp first – we’ve got to get the basics right.”
Phil Salt is likely to open with Luke Wells against Warwickshire with Harry Finch at No.3. South Africans Stiaan van Zyl and David Wiese are available and Sussex may play wicketkeeper Michael Burgess, who scored his maiden Championship hundred in the final game of last season, as a specialist batsman.