Ishant Sharma has got skills, but lacks discipline: Jeff Thomson

Former Australian paceman Jeff Thomson greeted the assembled journalists in Hindi with his typical Aussie accent on Monday, much to the surprise of everyone. Thommo, as he is known and who formed a formidable pair with Dennis Lillee in the 1970s and early 1980s, is in the city to mentor young Mumbai fast bowlers in association with Mumbai Cricket Association and IDBI Federal Life Insurance.

Thomson is not new to coaching. He coached Queensland for four years in the first half of 1990s, developing the Sheffield Shield team into a side for John Buchanan to take over in June 1994 and guide them to their first of seven first-class titles till date. Thomson has also imparted his knowledge at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai 1998 along with its head coach Lillee. He has also coached Zimbabwe bowlers in England a decade and a half ago.

Imparting knowledge is what the 65-year-old Thomson is keen on doing with the young Mumbai pacers. “Having coached in cricket and football, I always like to impart knowledge. I have been annoyed with the way cricket is being coached these days. There is a lot of funny things going around. Cricket is all about attitude,” Thomson said at his first media interaction since arriving in the early hours of Sunday.

“I like to see kids learn something from here. I want them to think. When you bowl to guys like Sachin Tendulkar, you want to get him out. There are times when things don’t go your way. You cannot ask a coach what you want to do at that time. You have got to work it out. You have to work out different options. It is all about making the kids think for themselves. It’s about talking to them. Cricket is a head game. The batsmen reckon we bowlers are stupid. But we are the ones who get people out,” Thomson said.

Thomson, who played in 51 Tests between 1972 and 1985 and finished with exactly 200 scalps, said that Indian bowlers “lacked discipline”.

While saying that the “Indian bowlers were not too bad”, Thomson added that they “lacked discipline”. “That was the biggest thing on their last tour of Australia (2014-15 when India lost four-Test series 0-2). The Indian bowlers derailed a little, their concentration dropped that made it a little hard for them. Unless you get a side out twice, you cannot win a Test match. If you can’t bowl 5-6 balls where you want in an over, you will be punished.”

Particularly on Ishant Sharma, Thomson said: “He lacks a bit of discipline. Having been in the international circuit for eight years, he ought to be a world beater but he lost the plot somewhere. Since he has height, I thought he would bowl with a lot of bounce. I saw him bowl a lot of deliveries that were soft. He bowled a lot of deliveries down the leg side. He has got very good skills, but needs a rocket.”

Thomson was regarded by some of the world’s great batsmen as the fastest they have ever faced. To him, cricket is all about skill and bowling a lot of deliveries in practice. He did not understand why bowlers of the present generation spent a lot of time in the gym.

“Cricket is all about skill. I don’t know what you learn in a gym. When I was young, coming into the scene, I was doing skill jobs. I was always playing football, cricket or chasing pigs. You have got to make yourself strong. Gym is an alternative. There is no replacement to actual bowling. The more you bowl, the more you will get back (in terms of wickets),” Thomson said.

Thomson was all aggression in his prime and has sent many a batsman into excruciating pain. “If one is a fast bowler, you should have aggression. You cannot be a nice guy. You have got to be No. 1, you have to be in the national side and think that you are better than the bloke next to you. You want to be the best. Sometimes, you will fall short but you have got to have the desire. Otherwise, you will be an also ran,” the New South Wales-born Thomson said.