AUS v IND 2020-21: NCA leaves final call on injured Ishant to BCCI; Pant "overweight", says report

Ishant Sharma returned to India from IPL 2020 earlier this month due to an abdominal muscle tear.

Ishant Sharma | GettyIndia's senior men's selection panel is awaiting clarity on injured pace spearhead Ishant Sharma before announcing the Test squad for the all-important forthcoming tour of Australia, where the visitors will also play three ODIs and three T20Is. 

The wait can only end once BCCI office-bearers take a call in response to the National Cricket Academy (NCA), headed by the great Rahul Dravid. The NCA is understood to have told the board to decide whether Ishant should travel with the Indian contingent to Australia next month. 

Read Also: "Heightened sense of chaos" before the tour could favour India, says Chappell 

Ishant has been under the care of the NCA coaching staff, who have carried out a thorough clinical assessment of the abdominal muscle tear he sustained at the sidelines of IPL 2020 and returned to India earlier this month. 

A report by Times of India states, "the NCA is learnt to have informed the BCCI recently that Sharma will need time until November 18 to fully recover, following which the 32-year-old bowler will require another three to four weeks' time to train before he is drafted into the side for an international game."

"The NCA has also 'recommended' that the bowler be allowed to play a warm-up game or two before he is drafted into the playing eleven for a Test match."

The issue, however, is complicated by the uncertainty around the schedule down to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

"But has Cricket Australia confirmed the schedule? Do the selectors know when is the first Test beginning? Let's say the first Test is beginning on December 17 with a Day & Night game at Adelaide. That means, Ishant will technically - going by the NCA's own recommended timeline - be part of the Test squad the day he completes his training schedule recommended by the NCA," those tracking developments told TOI

"Suppose the Test series is beginning earlier than December 17, let's say the first week of December - Who knows? The schedule is not out yet - then Sharma won't even be available. Are the BCCI and the selectors willing to take that risk? Is the NCA guaranteeing that Sharma will not suffer a break-down again?"

Well aware of the seriousness of the matter, NCA has sent an email to the BCCI apex council to inform them of the timelines expected in Ishant's rehabilitation process. 

"Let's not forget what happened in New Zealand," added a source in the report, recalling how Ishant's recovery process following an ankle injury while playing for Delhi in January was accelerated in order to make the Kiwi trip, where he did play the first Test and got a five-fer but later reaggravated the niggle and missed the second and final Test in Christchurch. 

Ishant is 32 and at a very delicate stage in his career. Those who keep the best of Indian cricket in their heart won't want to see the country's most experienced Test pacer breakdown again.

"The BCCI has to decide if they would like to take such a risk again. Ishant has gone through a horrible time and it's a long season for India ahead with England touring here immediately after the Tests in Australia," those aware of the issue told TOI

In another important matter, Team India physio Nick Webb is learnt to have told the board that wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant is facing weight issues. Following this, a final call whether Pant should travel to Australia has been left to the selection committee. 

"The Indian team fitness trainer had shared his perspective on Pant some days ago and we believe he's overweight," say those in the know. "Regardless of what's obvious on the field, the BCCI and the selectors will have to take the fitness report on Pant into consideration before they can pick him. The selectors need to speak to trainer Nick Webb before taking the call."

Given the times, the Indian team won't be able to call-up immediate replacement for any injured player and hence, a larger touring contingent, with enough back-ups, is expected to be announced once the selection panel sit for the crucial meeting, likely on Monday (October 26). 


By Kashish Chadha - 26 Oct, 2020

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