NEW DELHI - Much-ridiculed paceman Ishant Sharma was the toast of India on Tuesday after a devastating spell of bowling demolished England at Lord's, securing his team's first overseas victory for three years.
Batting legend Sachin Tendulkar described Sharma's career best performance on Monday as "exceptional" while newspapers said the 25-year-old had earned the right to be regarded as the spearhead of India's attack. The long-haired and lanky Sharma, who has been compared by the English media to an Afghan hound, took 7 for 74 on the final day of the second Test in London as India won their first Test away from home since 2011.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the congratulations for "the wonderful victory" -- India's first at the headquarters of cricket in 28 years. "We are very delighted & proud of the great performance," Modi said on Twitter. Speaking to the Indian Express, Tendulkar called it a "remarkable win and a precious day for the entire country" while reserving special praise for Sharma, who was recently dropped from the one-day and Twenty20 side. "He is a very hard-working guy and a great talent. We all have always had a great faith in him and today he was just exceptional," said Tendulkar who retired last year. Sharma's figures were the best by any Indian fast bowler in the fourth innings of a Test, with the team usually reliant on spin to clean up. But after taking the wicket of England's beleaguered captain Alastair Cook on Sunday, Sharma ripped through the rest of the order on Monday in a hostile spell of short-pitched bowling more familiar in the Caribbean. Recalling how Sharma became a butt of jokes on social media last year when he took a pounding against Australia, the Times of India said "one of the most ridiculed Indian cricketers silenced his critics".
The Hindustan Times said that Sharma had used the "short ball to perfection" as a string of England batsman fell victim to his bouncers. "Indian batsmen have often been at the receiving end of short-pitched bowling abroad but on Monday, Ishant Sharma dished out some heavy chin music" himself, said the Hindustan Times.
"It was a master plan by (Indian captain Mahendra Singh) Dhoni and executed to perfection by Sharma," the paper added. The victory has helped ease pressure on Dhoni, who has been facing calls to quit over his team's poor record since the retirement of a series of batting greats including Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Tendulkar. "For India, this is an important victory, achieved by a young side poised to stride confidently into the future," said The Mail Today. "This a new team, with new players and a fresh mindset. The era of Tendulkar and other greats is history."