First came the loss and then the bad news. Not long after India suffered a humbling 266-run defeat at Southampton, skipper MS Dhoni said that speedster Ishant Sharma will not be fit in time to return for the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
The beanpole pacer had missed the third Test at Ageas Bowl due to a sore leg, and it’s learnt that the extent of his injury is still unknown, with the team management left puzzled.
“Definitely he (Ishant) won’t be fit for the next game. Never really had a discussion with our physio, but as of now he won’t be available for the fourth Test match,” Dhoni told Michael Atherton during the post-match presentation.
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With the likes of Varun Aaron and Ishwar Pandey waiting in the wings, the team management has so far not called for a replacement for Ishant, whose inspirational spell of 7/74 fashioned a historic win for India at Lord’s.
Back home too, the BCCI has been monitoring the situation .
“We have been taking expert advise on what can be done. There are a few check-ups that Ishant has to undergo. Though it is early to say whether he will be ruled out entirely for the series, at the moment he is just set to miss the fourth Test but will remain with the team,” said a BCCI official.
Ishant’s absence was felt direly by India in Southampton as England piled on the runs, losing just 10 wickets across two innings while scoring a total of 774 runs. His replacement Pankaj Singh, though unlucky to not snare a few scalps, ended his debut Test without a bowling average having conceding 179 runs and recorded no entry in the wickets column.
Going into the third Test, Ishant and Bhuvneshwar Kumar had seemed to have formed a settled pace-attack in the company of Mohammad Shami.
But in what could be another blow to India’s chances of fighting back from the third Test loss that left the series level at 1-1, sources informed this paper that Kumar had finished the game with a swollen leg. Kumar also did not warm down with the rest of his teammates at the end of the fifth day’s play at Southampton.
The UP all-rounder has not only been prolific with the ball, having snared 15 wickets at an average of 23 apiece, he is also the third highest run-getter for the visitors. And with just a week to go before the action kicks off in Manchester, the Indian team physiotherapist is sure to have his work cut out, tending to the aches and niggles of his pace bowlers.
Wicket-keeper batsman Naman Ojha will replace an injured Wriddhiman Saha for the last two Tests, the BCCI said in a statement. “The All-India Senior Selection Committee has picked Naman Ojha as his (Saha’s) replacement. Ojha will join the squad at the earliest,” said BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel in a statement. Ojha made three hundreds, including a double hundred while playing for India A in Australia.