With the New Zealand Test series a month away, Ishant Sharma, India’s most experienced fast bowler, sprained his ankle and hobbled off during Delhi’s Ranji encounter against Vidarbha. The incident happened when Ishant frantically appealed for an lbw against Vidarbha opener and captain Faiz Fazal after pinging him on the pads.
When back-pedaling while appealing, he slipped and twisted the right ankle. He plunged to the ground and had difficulty in getting up, before the Delhi physio and support staff lifted him back to his feet before taking him off.
While only an MRI scan slated late in the evening would confirm whether there’s a fracture or not, a Delhi support staff said the injury looked bad to the naked eye.
“There was a huge swelling on his ankle and he could not place his foot on the floor. But we need to get the scan result to verify the extent of the injury, the course of the tournament and how long it would take to heal. If it’s a minor rupture, it would take just a couple of weeks. A fracture or a tear will take longer to heal. We are keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.
That Ishant had sustained a grade one hamstring tear in the second Test against Bangladesh in Kolkata, where he was also the man of the match, wouldn’t augur well for him in terms of reaching optimal fitness for the Tests against New Zealand. Whatever the result be, the team wouldn’t risk him for the remaining match, which means he’s effectively out of the Vidarbha game.
“There is no question of him bowling in the match, even if the doctor clears him. That would be a big risk,” he added. Anyway, this was the last Ranji Trophy match he was slated to play this year, as India is flying to New Zealand, where Ishant is expected to play a big role in the two-Test series.
But the injury means that even if it’s not severe, he will have to go the National Cricket Academy (NCA), do the rehab and prove his fitness. It’s a process wherein the physios in NCA would test whether the injury has healed. In Ishant’s case, they will verify that his ankle, which’s the landing foot when bowling, can take the weight of his body.
However, if the injury is severe or if it’s a fracture, he might end up missing the two-Test series in New Zealand, which would be a severe blow for the team.
Especially, as Jasprit Bumrah too is returning from an injury-a stress fracture on the back-and hasn’t played a Test in six months. But to Ishant’s relief, it was not the operated left-knee that he hurt. The Delhi seamer had his left-ankle operated in 2012, due to which he missed the IPL and spent considerable time out of the team. In an interview to this paper a few months ago, he had termed this period as the dark phase of his career. “Nobody asked me where I was (when out of the team). In a way, it’s good that it (injury) happened to me. I realised who my good friends were and who were really concerned anout be,” he had said.
It’s not the first time, he has got himself injured during a Ranji match. In the 2015 season, he pulled his hamstring while bowling against Haryana at Kotla.
Subsequently, he missed the ODI-leg of the series and was out of cricket for nearly six months. If his injury is severe enough for him to be ruled out of the New Zealand series, the Indian cricket board would be even more skeptical about their premier bowlers featuring in domestic cricket before important tours. In the present context, they were allowed to play but with an unwritten emphasis on not exhausting them, In Ishant’s case, he was permitted to play only Delhi’s home games.
“Indian team management doesn’t tell me how many overs to bowl. I know my body well enough. They do tell us which matches to play in. Once you play a game – and this is no club game – you bowl till you get the opposition out,” he had said after Delhi’s previous home game against Hyderabad.
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