Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma are unlikely to board a flight to Australia in the next three-four days, The Indian Express understands. Also, it is learnt that the Indian team management hasn’t yet received any communication from the National Cricket Academy (NCA) or BCCI as regards to when the two are joining the squad. And if that’s the case, then going by Indian team head coach Ravi Shastri’s comment, both might miss the entire Test series.
Rohit (hamstring injury) and Ishant (ribcage injury) are currently at the NCA for their rehab and on Sunday, Shastri expressed apprehension on the two players’ participation in the upcoming Test series unless they fly out in the next “three to four days”.
A 14-day quarantine period is mandatory upon reaching Australia and the first Test in Adelaide commences on December 17. But it’s a four-Test series and both Rohit and Ishant could be available for the Boxing Day Test onwards even if they don’t fly out in the next few days. It’s not clear if Shastri has put a question mark on their recovery; whether they can sustain the rigours of a Test series. Or it could be that the two need to prove their match fitness ahead of the Test series, during India’s second and final tour game, against Australia A in Sydney (December 11-13).
“If you need to play in the Test series or any red-ball cricket, you’ve got to be on the flight in the next three or four days. If you aren’t, then it’s going to be tough,” Shastri told ABC Sport on Sunday.
In his interview, the head coach spoke about Rohit and Ishant being assessed by the NCA medical team. “But things could get difficult if he’s (Rohit) asked to wait for too long, (because) then you’re talking of the quarantine again, which might make it really tough for even him to come just in time for the Test series,” Shastri said.
The national selectors had left Rohit out of the Australia tour after he suffered a hamstring injury playing for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
Rohit, however, returned to play for his franchise after missing four matches and was eventually included in the Test squad.
While updating the squads for the Australia tour, the BCCI had said: “The BCCI Medical Team has been monitoring Rohit Sharma’s fitness and has briefed All-India Senior Selection Committee on the same. In consultation with Mr Sharma, it has been decided to rest him for the ODIs and T20Is in Australia to regain full fitness and he has been included in India’s Test squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.”
Shastri reiterated that the BCCI and the team management knew all along that Rohit would miss the limited-overs leg of the tour, which starts with an ODI in Sydney on November 27. “He (Rohit) was never going to play the white-ball series, they were just looking to see how long he needed the rest, because you can’t afford to be resting for too long,” the head coach said.
If indeed Rohit misses the Test series, as per Shastri’s apprehension, it would be a big blow for India, more so because skipper Virat Kohli is returning home after the first Test. The team has a back-up opener in KL Rahul, but given Rohit’s quality, experience and a solid backfoot game, the Aussies might have a considerable upper hand if the batsman doesn’t make it.
Rohit has scored 556 runs, including two centuries and a double century, in his last five Tests after he started opening the innings. Two years ago, during India’s triumphant tour of Australia, he had scored 106 runs in two Tests, but was yet to cement his place in the Test side then.
As far as Ishant is concerned, the BCCI advisory had said: “The senior Indian fast bowler has been undergoing his rehab at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. Once he fully recovers and gains sufficient match fitness, he will be added to India’s Test squad.”
If “sufficient match fitness” are the operative words here, Ishant has to reach Australia early enough to be available for India’s second tour game. He, along with Rohit, will not be available for the December 6-8 India A versus Australia A fixture even if they fly out in the next three-four days.
“It’s (Ishant’s) a similar case to Rohit,” Shastri said in the interview, adding: “You don’t really know how quickly he’ll be available to fly out. Like I said, if anyone has to play in the Test series, he has to be on the flight in the next four or five days. Otherwise, it’s very difficult.”
Ishant sustained a “left internal oblique muscle tear” during Delhi Capitals’ training session on October 7, which ruled him out of the IPL.
The senior-most bowler in the Indian team is on the cusp of the 100-Test landmark (97 Tests), and had a pretty decent tour of Australia in 2018-19, returning with 11 wickets at 23.81 in three Tests.
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