When Ishant Sharma suddenly decided to walk off the ground after bowling just 5.3 overs in India first tour game in Australia, it set a few alarm bells ringing.
One of the reasons for that happening was that Ishant was looking at the physio and pointing at his ankle. Secondly, this was the second time he was going off the ground -- the first instance was after the first over of the match. The other reason was that he was carrying an ankle injury since the tour of England, so a chance of a breakdown always exists. And finally, with Zaheer Khan’s precedent in England – where he sustained a hamstring injury in the first Test at Lord’s, after bowling just 13.3 overs – it seems completely plausible that the selectors have once again failed to get things right.
The Indian manager Shivlal Yadav came out and tried to soothe the frayed nerves. He said Sharma was slated to bowl just six overs in the first of the two practice matches in Canberra. He also added that the reason why Ishant was forced to abandon an over was because the strapping on his ankle had come loose.
But still, the incident occurred during the first session. And deep into the last session of the day, Ishant had not taken the field. It’s a practice match and India may want to try out all their bowlers but someone like Ishant, who hasn’t been in the best of form recently, surely needs more time to fine tune ahead of the Tests.
Another member of the support staff told the gathered media that the bowler’s short quick burst had more to do with the team’s hectic last 24 hours — they arrived in Canberra after 3 am on Wednesday and attended the Sir Donald Bradman Oration function that evening.
Surely, the support staff isn’t trying to say that the Indian team was giving the Bradman Oration more importance than the tour match. If that was indeed the case, then some of the players should have just stayed back in the hotel. If you can’t handle it, then don’t do it. Simple. And anyway, the only one who did anything worth remembering at the event was Dravid, the others just clapped. That couldn't be too tiring.
Even when the Zaheer injury had happened in England, India had tried to play mind games. They kept insisting that the left-arm paceman would return by the third Test. Only the severity of the injury was much more serious. Let’s hope nothing of the sort is happening with Ishant too.
Ideally, immediately after the England tour, Ishant should have had surgery on the ankle and solved the problem in one go. He would have had enough time for rehab too. But because the BCCI has tried to go in for injury management – every time the paceman pulls up short, Dhoni will have a small heart attack because his hopes of winning in Australia will also breakdown.
Zaheer Khan is another case in point. The selectors had mentioned that the seamer will only play in the second tour game. But one has to wonder, will just one tour game be enough for Zaheer to find his best line and length.
Once again – it all comes down to injury management. We’ll be inclined to blame the trainers and the physios but the truth is that these guys dare not go against the senior players – it’s not part of their mandate. Just how many times have you heard the BCCI officials say that whether Sachin Tendulkar plays or not, depends on the master batsman.
Their flawed argument usually goes that Sachin knows his body better than anyone else. Better than the physio too? Until the time when the physio is given enough power to stand up and present the hard facts as they are, India’s fitness troubles will never end.
We hope Ishant is fit as they tell us, but if he isn’t, no one will be surprised. First match of the tour, an Indian player breaks down and we know things are back to normal.
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