Ind v Eng: Rohit Sharma’s injury opens up a place

In-form batsman Rohit Sharma has been sidelined with a serious right thigh muscle tendon injury and has been virtually ruled out of the upcoming five-Test series against England.

Rohit Sharma injured himself during his knock of 70 in the fifth ODI against New Zealand, in Vishakapatnam.   -  K. R. Deepak

In-form batsman Rohit Sharma has been sidelined with a serious right thigh muscle tendon injury and has been virtually ruled out of the upcoming five-Test series against England.

The 29-year-old may have to undergo surgery in England should further tests advise so. This comes at a vital phase of his career when the Mumbai middle-order batsman has given sufficient hints of finding his own space in Test match cricket and will be a big blow to India’s campaign against the Alastair Cook-led England team.

On Wednesday, at the Cricket Centre here, the BCCI’s senior national selection committee chaired by M. S .K. Prasad consulted coach Anil Kumble and conferred with captain Virat Kohli over a video conference and pinned their faith on Baroda’s Hardik Pandya for the crucial all-rounder’s berth in the team.

The committee was convinced about the chikungunya-affected fast bowler Ishant Sharma’s fitness, following his long spells against Odisha and Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy, and reinstated him in the team.

They also retained Haryana all-rounder Jayant Yadav and Karnataka middle-order batsman Karun Nair. Yadav was Ishant’s replacement for the second Test against New Zealand at Kolkata, while Nair came in for Shikhar Dhawan for the third Test at Indore.

The absence of any clear information after the fifth and final ODI match against New Zealand at Vishakapatnam, when Rohit suffered the injury while batting, raised doubts about his fitness because he did not field in the second innings of that game. There were question marks against openers K. L. Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan, and seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but the severity of Rohit's injury was not known until Prasad explained it all.

Purple patch

After quite some time since his spectacular Test debut against the West Indies in Kolkata in November 2013, Rohit curbed his natural instincts and made scores of 35, 68 not out, 82, 51 not out and 42 against New Zealand batting at No. 6 and returned an average fractionally lower than 80. Rohit's misfortune will possibly open up a chance for Nair or Pandya and surely the team’s think tank, comprising Kumble and Kohli, will need to make a decision before they choose the eleven for the first Test at Rajkot.

Prasad, who appeared genuinely disappointed at Rohit's unavailability, said: “Unfortunately we have all seen on TV that Rohit Sharma is badly injured. There is scope for surgical intervention. He is going to be assessed, and if required he might have to undergo a surgery.

“In case he doesn’t require a surgical intervention, it could be six to eight weeks; if it is required it could be more. Dhawan has started his rehabilitation at the NCA and K. L. Rahul is not available for the first couple of Test matches as per the physio report.”

The selection committee is clear that anyone wanting to come back into the team must prove his fitness by playing a competitive match. Touching upon Bhuvneshwar Kumar not being picked, Prasad explained: “He is just recovering and actually, as far as the fitness report is concerned, he is available for selection. But we feel that whenever a player (wants to) come back, he should play at least a game, a Ranji Trophy game so that we can assess him in terms of match fitness.”

Prasad also went on to say that his committee is looking towards rotation of players. “Apart from injury management, we are looking at the workload management and that is where the rotation policy comes in. We have quite a few players ready right now. If you look at it, we are not struggling; in case somebody is unfit, there is a ready-made answer. If you look at domestic cricket, we have quite a few players who are doing really well. There is a lot of cricket to come and in case there is an injury, which is inevitable, we have backups.”

Addressing his first press conference as Chairman of the selection committee, Prasad said: “One thing I want to make very clear is that we are thinking 10 times before picking a player and if we pick a player he should be given due chances. Even if the regular openers (Rahul and Dhawan) had returned we would have still given preference to Gautam Gambhir because we have considered him and he should be given a fair chance.”

The team for the first two Tests to be played at Rajkot (Nov. 9-13) and Vishakapatnam (Nov. 17-21):

Virat Kohli (Captain), Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Vice-captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Karun Nair and Jayant Yadav.