The index finger of Ishant Sharma’s bowling hand was the focus of attention at Monday’s net session. Joining in the early part of the training, the lanky pacer stopped after a couple of deliveries to tend to his finger and walked off after discussion with physio Patrick Farhart, leading to some tense faces in the India camp. According to the team’s spokesperson, it was a minor cut which was causing him discomfort.
With Mohammed Shami ruled out due to hamstring injury, Ishant has become all the more crucial to India’s pace plans. That he also didn’t bowl in the two warm-up matches has led to uncertainty around him. To everyone’s relief, the bowler who first made a name for himself at this very ground in the 2007-08 Test with a searing spell to Ricky Ponting, returned in the second half to bowl a long spell, including a session from his full run-up.
Shami’s replacement Bhuvneshwar Kumar has arrived and was at the nets. Nursing an ankle injury, he was a passenger for most of India’s last tour here in 2015. At the training session, his left ankle was heavily strapped, though it seemed a precautionary measure as he too bowled a long spell.
Managing injuries has been a concern for Team India, and the situation doesn’t augur well ahead of this series too.
It is against this backdrop that India were looking to pick their pace bowling combination for the opening game of the five-match series. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni declared that a few fresh faces will be given opportunities in this series, and rookie pace bowler Barinder Sran is likely to benefit. Ishant should be an automatic choice, depending on his fitness, to partner Umesh Yadav. In this volatile situation, all-rounder Rishi Dhawan, the back-up option, too should fancy his chances.
“It’s a series where a lot of new individuals will get a chance, so it will be very exciting,” said Dhoni, on the eve of the opener.
In the batting line-up, the fight is for the No 6 spot where Manish Pandey is the frontrunner against Gurkeerat Singh Mann. Not only is Pandey is a seasoned IPL hand, he advanced his claim with a half-century in the second warm-up game.
If it is any consolation, Australia too are afflicted by injury woes and will be blooding two pacers at the WACA. Local boy Joel Paris and Scott Boland have been named to make their ODI debuts.
Never one to share his combination, Dhoni only conceded he is looking to go with a three-two bowling combination. That means, though WACA is known to help pace, India will again look to attack with the spin combination of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
The middle overs will be crucial in India’s gameplan, and how the two spinners manage to exert pressure. Seldom has such contrasting strategies been employed by rival teams. The hosts will have an all-pace attack with part-time off-spinner, Glenn Maxwell, for support.
It paid off for Australia at the World Cup while it almost did for India, who reached the semis. Even though it is one-dayers, there’s still a lot of interest around it, mainly because of the profile of the two opponents – world champions versus the semifinalists.