After bowling a couple of deliveries,Ishant Sharma raised his right arm as high as possible. There is a slight pain at this point of my action, he told Praveen Kumar,Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan. In response,there was an awkward silence. This innocuous incident brought to the fore an intriguing aspect of all team sports. When theres ambiguity surrounding the return of a regular to the starting line-up,the uncertainty on the bench multiplies.
The team management was to take the final call on Sharmas fitness later,and that meant the gloomy one minute,sunny the next weather on the match-eve was the perfect metaphor for the mindset of a few in the pace department. Manager Niranjan Shah said that clues from the nets would be vital for the final decision on Ishant,and officially announced that Sachin Tendulkar would be missing the fourth one-dayer and more tests would be needed to check his availability for the final game in Auckland later this week.
It was this clarity on Tendulkars status that saw Rohit Sharma pad up first at the nets. Until the twitch in Tendulkars abdomen,changes in the batting line-up would have been the last thing on Team Indias mind and Rohit wouldve been contemplating an extended run as 12th man. Chances were that he would have gone home after the ODI series,having played just seven deliveries in the first T20 game on this New Zealand trip. But the sudden turn of events has given the brightest star of the Indian Premier Leagues (IPL) first season another chance to try for a slot in the ODI XI.
Such uncertainty would not have played on Rohits mind a year ago,when he announced his arrival on the world stage with some memorable knocks during the tri-series in Australia. With a career-high average of almost 40 back then,it seemed Rohit was here to stay. But things didnt go his way in ODIs after that,and he now averages a modest 25. He is still to surpass the 66 he scored against the Aussies in the final then,in which he was involved in a match-winning partnership with Tendulkar. Rohit has since been shuffled up and down the batting order,as a back-up for injured players,because of Suresh Rainas strong comeback.
Second chance for Rohit
But a crunch match in a packed house has brought out the best in him in the past,and hell be hoping that Wednesdays game will once again turn the tide. Making things easier for him are the stadiums short boundaries and a pitch that,according to opposition vice-captain Brendon McCullum,has plenty of runs in it. There is no doubt that there will be another high-scoring game. Thats something the bowlers will have to get their heads around. Maybe going at five-and-a-half to six runs an over is not a bad return on this surface, McCullum said.
While Sharma,the batsman,will be looking forward to be a part of action in such conditions,Sharma,the bowler,must be sceptical. With little margin for error,Ishant will have to be in top shape if he wants to make an impact. But with Praveen,Patel and Pathan poker-faced when Ishant spoke about the slight pain he felt while bowling,its still tough to guess if Wednesday morning will bring bad news for one of them.