Confirming India’s fears, pace spearhead Ishant Sharma was ruled out of the cricket World Cup after he failed a fitness test. The lanky fast bowler had injured his knee during India’s tour of Australia and the test confirmed that the pacer hasn’t fully recovered. Ishant will fly home with Mohit Sharma touted as the possible replacement.
Mohit, who played against England in India’s final game in the recently-concluded tri-series, did well in the lone game he played. He had stayed back in Australia as a cover for his injured team mate.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, however, has made some progress and might feature in India’s warm-up game against Australia on Sunday. The medium pacer has been suffering from a left-ankle injury which had ruled him out of the first three Tests in Australia. A recurrence meant he could play only two matches in the tri-series. Kumar has to prove his match fitness in Sunday’s game and it would be a serious blow to India’s bowling unit if the swing bowler too does not make it too.
The Sandeep Patil-led national selection committee had picked the final 15 for the World Cup on January 6 even as Ishant’s fitness situation was not clear. Ishant had injured his knee during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and had failed to recover for the final Test in Sydney. He sat out of the tri-series as well. There was an ambiguity surrounding his omission from the playing XI in India’s final match of the tournament in Perth with Ishant reportedly declared himself unfit only a few hours before the game.
While Ishant was not considered for the 2011 World Cup and had been ‘rested’ from ODIs for a while, he had come to represent India’s most logical option to lead the pace attack in the absence of seniors like Zaheer Khan.
Now, with question marks over Bhuvneshwar’s fitness too, the fast bowling unit looks callow. Ishant had played 76 ODIs while Bhuvneshwar, 44 and their experience was perhaps one of the reasons why the selectors gambled with their fitness. Former India coach Gary Kirsten, who presided over the title triumph four years ago, backed their decision. “It depends on how important the cricketer is to the balance of the team. Replacing an important but injured player is tough, as the guy who comes in to fill his shoes may not be able to play the same role. Before the knockouts the teams can experiment and reshuffle a bit and then settle down on the combination of the team.
World Cup is a long tournament, played over one-and-a-half months,” he said during a promotional event in Kolkata on Saturday.
Mohinder Amarnath begged to differ. “It’s always better to go with a full fit team rather than a half-fit one. In case of fitness issues, I think the players should have been sent back (early). They should have been made to play domestic cricket (post recovery) to prove their match fitness,” he said.
Injuries have continued to plague Ishant’s career. He played only eight ODIs (10 wickets at 30.20) over the past 14 months in the run-up to the World Cup. Kumar has been a lot more prolific during that period with 19 matches and 15 wickets.