Injuries, bubble fatigue: Indian cricketers soldier on in Australia

4 days ago 6

1. Jasprit Bumrah: Abdominal strain

2. Ravichandran Ashwin: Back spasm

3. Ravindra Jadeja: Thumb injury

4. Hanuma Vihari: Hamstring strain

5. Mohammed Shami: Hand injury

6. Umesh Yadav: Calf-muscle injury

7. KL Rahul: Left wrist sprain

8. Ishant Sharma: Abdominal musle tear (ruled out of tour)

9. Rohit Sharma: Hamstring injury (joined the tour later)

No prizes for guessing that this is a checklist of the injuries, sustained by top Indian cricketers over a period of nearly last three months, the last two actually happening during the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE. The ground reality is so bad that if India had not flown such a jumbo squad to Australia, they would have been hard-pressed to field a playing XI in the high stakes final Test in Brisbane.

If India had delayed their naming of the playing XI for Brisbane till Friday morning, it’s not quite for a final look at the Gabba - as even a teenaged cricket fan knows what to expect there. It’s because Ajinkya Rahane & Co are desperate to field Bumrah, who could be their trump card on the bouncy track, and the seasoned campaigner Ravi Ashwin, who turned in his best-ever showing in four visits to Australia so far.

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“Our medical staff is looking into them, they’re working with all the players,” India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour told reporters at the virtual press conference. “So I won’t be in a position to comment exactly how it stands at the moment.

“We would like to give them as much time as we can. I think it will be tomorrow morning only you will know which 11 is going to play.”

The odds are certainly stacked against India in the final Test and if they can manage to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from here (even a drawn series will allow them to keep custody of the trophy as they were winners in the last 2018-19 series), then it will be a great testimony to their resilience and will power against all the odds - and social media pundits.

Ajinkya Rahane (left), the current stand-in captain of India, and the entire touring squad Down Under barring Test specialists Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari were a part of the IPL for their respective franchises in the UAE. Image Credit: BCCI

A quick scan into what the Indian teams, in all formats, had by way of preparations for such a demanding tour makes one realise that planning was never quite quite on the agenda. Virat Kohli & Co were out on the road from the third week of August since they reached the UAE for the IPL - straight after five months of complete lockdown which barred them from any form outdoor physical training and net sessions. A no-nonsense life in the bio-bubble followed for a period of three months and once the IPL ended in Dubai on November 10, the contingent headed off for a long flight to Australia - less than 24 hours after the final - to be on time to meet the quarantine requirements.

The tacit understanding between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket Australia (CA) was clear - the four-Test series was a make-or-break one for the latter for a financial bailout. At a time when most cricketing countries were opting for limited choice of venues, it was difficult to fathom what made India agree to do the full circle of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane - each city with often radically different quarantine rules - for the Tests.

No sooner the jaded Indian lot heads back home and are over with their quarantine procedure, England will be flying over from Sri Lanka and a full series gets under way there with the first Test from February 4. Once the series against England finishes, it will again be time for IPL 2021 - either at home or the UAE.

There is never quite a dull moment then for the Indian cricketers - as that’s what keeps of the BCCI coffers ringing!

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