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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

Cricket

Injuries raise questions on Ishant Sharma's longevity
Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times
Southampton, July 29, 2014
First Published: 02:56 IST(29/7/2014)
Last Updated: 12:40 IST(31/7/2014)

So sharp and incisive less than a week ago, India's bowlers were unrecognisable in how they turned up at Southampton. The impact of losing the leader of the pack was there for all to see.

Ishant Sharma, the most experienced member of the attack and star of the Lord's victory, called in injured to disastrous consequences. England merrily capitalised and India were kept in the field for almost two full days.

After years of frustration, Ishant is finally showing signs of living up to his potential. He was India's standout performer in New Zealand early this year and maintained his good form in England.

SENSITIVE SPOT

The injury has come as a setback, and given that it is the ankle, it is a bigger concern. For all the advantages of a tall frame in his job as a fast bowler, it also puts a massive strain on the joints.

"Bowling is not a natural movement. It's a very demanding job, the twisting, the turning, the jarring: the body is not meant to do that. You are prone to something giving, and you just hope," said former England fast bowler Gladstone Small.

Small, who also has a towering frame like Ishant, said all bowlers are vulnerable but some injuries are more difficult to handle. "Show me a bowler who is not injury prone? But yeah, ankle injuries are bad," said Small, who played in the 80s and 90s.

Sharma has a history of ankle injuries.

"Ankle injuries are such a bad one because it is such a pressurised joint, there is no muscle around there. So, once you have a weak ankle, you can't strengthen around there. When you keep doing a repetitive action, banging and jarring the same muscles and bones all the time, it can get difficult," analysed Small.

FEW CHOICES

He didn't see a way out for Ishant. "Until he changes his bowling style, which he can't do at this stage of his career, he's going to have those scenarios. All he can do is manage the injury and hopefully it doesn't worsen to prevent him from bowling. The key will be to be in the right frame of mind."

Sharma's absence has sent the short-ball game plan for a toss and the England batsmen have thrived. Small felt it's not just Sharma's bowling that India have missed.

"It brings pressure on the younger bowlers who don't have Ishant's experience. His inputs while standing at mid-off and mid-on are a big factor as he plays the mentoring role too while Dhoni is 50-60 yards away. The young bowlers (were) trying to take a wicket every ball. I was there at Lord's and Sharma's strategy was to put the pressure by drying up the runs."


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