Ishant Sharma's dodgy ankle leaves India depleted

  • Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times, Southampton
  • Updated: Jul 31, 2014 12:30 IST

India were pushed on the backfoot before the third Test at Southampton got underway on Sunday when Ishant Sharma was ruled out of the game because of a niggle on his left ankle.

It was a massive blow as Ishant is the in-form bowler, having guided the team to a sensational win at Lord's.

It completely upset India's bowling plans as they were banking on Ishant to attack the England batsmen with the short ball. The lanky bowler was struggling during his incisive spell on the final day at Lord's and skipper MS Dhoni had rested him instead of allowing him to go for his eighth wicket of the innings.

"Ishant had a very long spell by then and we needed to get one more wicket at that stage. I told him I was happy to give him the chance to get eight wickets but if he had the slightest of niggles, and by niggle I meant even the slightest pain in any part of the body, then it is better he didn't bowl the next over because I didn't want him to get injured. Also, from outside it didn't look hot, but it was very humid, and you tend to lose a lot of fluid, and that can lead to injuries," Dhoni said.

Ishant and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were given three days' break after the Lord's Test.

On Thursday, he batted but didn't bowl, and his training was curtailed on the next two days too. And Dhoni's fears came true after Ishant's bowling stint on Saturday.

The team management is being extra careful, to ensure he is available for the last two Tests. Dhoni said he would have risked Ishant had it been a one-day game.

That gave the opportunity for Pankaj Singh, a domestic workhorse for Rajasthan who has taken 300 wickets in 77 first-class games.

Last season, he gave vent to his frustration at being ignored by the selectors despite his first-class consistency.

Sandeep Patil and Co took note and gave him a chance in the Irani Cup, where he took five wickets for Rest of India against Karnataka, clocking 135kph plus into his 30th over of the innings.

"It was a make-or-break game for me. I knew if I didn't get the wickets, it was all over for me," Pankaj, 29, had told HT.

On Sunday, Pankaj didn't show any nerves. He generated good pace, immediately hit the right length and moved the ball both ways.

However, what should have been a dream start was spoiled when Ravindra Jadeja dropped a simple catch at third slip off Alastair Cook. He was also unlucky to have a leg before shout against Ian Bell turned down with the second new ball.

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