MUMBAI: The BCCI’s national selection committee, waiting to pick its first team apropos of the format in seven months, is caught in a classic Catch-22 scenario, one that only the office-bearers of the Board can help resolve.
The National Cricket Academy (NCA), that’s headed by legendary Test cricketer Rahul Dravid, has left it to the office-bearers of the Board to take a call on whether pacer Ishant Sharma should travel with the Indian contingent to Australia next month – in consultation with the selection committee.
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Ever since he returned from the UAE with an abdominal muscle tear and checked in at the NCA earlier this month, Sharma has been under the care of the support staff at the academy, where a thorough clinical assessment was carried out.
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.
“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.
“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?” those tracking developments told TOI.
It is learnt that the NCA has sent an email to the office-bearers to this effect, informing the latter of Sharma’s tentative injury, rehabilitation and recovery timelines.
“Let’s not forget what happened in New Zealand,” sources add.
Sharma had been picked for the Test series in New Zealand early this year in February this year subject to fitness clearance. He was hurried to join his teammates on that tour for the first Test at Basin Reserve and it left him with no time to take part in any warm-up matches before becoming a part of the playing eleven. The bowler, who had suffered an ankle injury during the Ranji Trophy in January, broke down once again ahead of the second Test and had to be replaced.
“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,” say those who see the cricketer’s perspective.
To put things in perspective, it is to be waited and seen if the selectors will pursue with an injured Sharma and risk him for the home series against England too, at the cost of missing out on any other deserving youngster.
Meanwhile, wicket-keeper-batsman Rishabh Pant is also learnt to be struggling with ‘weight issues’, following which the call has been left for the selectors to take if he can travel with the team.
“The Indian team fitness trainer had shared his perspective on Pant some days ago and we believe he’s overweight. 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,” say those in the know.
What’s rather important to note here is that the Indian team won’t be looking at calling any replacements from India once they fly to Australia – thanks to Covid protocols.