Fitness is the new buzzword for Ishant Sharma. The 6'4" tall pacer is striving to shoulder the responsibility as India's bowling ace in the much looked-forward-to Test series against South Africa in December. The 24-year-old has gotten over his fitness troubles and right now is basking in the glory of his impactful performances in the Champions Trophy and the Tri-series in the West Indies. The lanky pacer spoke to TOI about his injury, the recovery, the highs and the lows.

After recovering from the ankle injury that you had last February, you played non-stop cricket for almost six months. This break must have been welcome.

Usually people go for holidays during a break. Not for me. I have to concentrate on my fitness and regular training. Fast bowling is about having the requisite strength and I need to gain strength. I have to build on my speed and endurance. Fast bowling needs that and I am working on it.

What is your schedule these days?

I'm following the fitness regimen devised by the coaches at the National Cricket Academy and I am working quite hard. I go to the gym in the morning then break for lunch and return to bowling in the afternoons. I also go for swimming and take ice baths after rigorous training sessions.

Former New Zealand all-rounder Richard Hadlee recently said that something's missing from your bowling and you need to bowl the right length. Your comment.

Coming from a legend like him, I do value the suggestion. But then again, each one is entitled to his own opinion. I have tried to do what he is saying, but sometimes it has worked and at other times it hasn't. If I am performing well, I don't need to change anything. Bowling is more about situations and it is not easy. One has to see what he is good at. That said, it is always good to learn from the greats.

You emerged as a hero in the Champions Trophy final against England delivering in a crunch situation.

It was a tight situation and Dhoni surprised many by giving the ball to me. He told me to just stick to what I am good at and back myself. Dhoni has some kind of belief in me. It was a crucial call, but he told me that this is the over which is going to win the game for us.

There will be a lot of focus on you when India visits South Africa for the big Test tour this November.

I am keeping myself fit and in top shape. I love being the spearhead of the Indian bowling attack and it is a privilege for any fast bowler. At the same time it is better not to think about these things and stay focused. Yes, I have to be ready for India's big tour of South Africa, but before that we also have the Champions League T20 and the ODIs against the Aussies.

How is it to bowl in tandem with Bhuvneshwar Kumar?

Bhuvi is a different talent altogether. He has the ability to bowl at 140+ and he can swing the ball both ways. I like the way he bowls and we enjoy each other's success. We are a happy bunch.

Zaheer Khan is also training hard at the moment. Do you see him coming on that South African tour?

I love to play with Zaheer Khan. In my first three years of international cricket, I grew under Zak. Whatever I am is because of him. He taught me how to bowl. Everything that I do on the field is what I learnt from him. It will be great to have him back.

Ishant's Fitness Regimen
* Jogging twice to thrice a week for an hour.
* Swimming to relax oneself and the body muscles.
* Ice baths after training.
* Building endurance (20 minutes, thrice a week to build leg muscles).
* Regular strength and weight training once or twice a week. A balanced routine focusing both on the upper and lower body. Building flexibility to reduce chances of injury.
* Food and nutrition: Lot of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, lots of water.

Ishant Sharma More stills

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