MS Dhoni was offered no relief regarding the fitness of seamer Ishant Sharma, following his side’s heavy 266-run defeat to England at the Ageas Bowl.
Reeling from the loss – which leveled the five-match series at 1-1 – the Indian captain revealed in a post-match interview that the tall fast bowler wouldn’t be fit in time for the next Test – which begins at Old Trafford next Thursday.
Sharma is suffering with an ankle injury, having taken figures of 7-74 as India won the second Test at Lord’s. Without the 25-year-old in the squad, the tourists failed to take wickets in Southampton.
England twice declared as they won their first five-day game in almost a year. And in the aftermath of the loss, Dhoni explained that his will have to make do without Sharma once again in Manchester.
Dhoni said: “Ishant Sharma definitely won’t be fit for the fourth Test.”
In Sharma’s absence, India drafted in Pankaj Singh, who returned match figures of 0-179. If India are to regain the upper hand in this series, then it will be necessary for them to take more than the 11 wickets they claimed at the Ageas Bowl in the final two Tests.
Duncan Fletcher and Dhoni also opted to revert to a four-man bowling unit. They decided to drop all-rounder Stuart Binny and replace him with specialist batsman Rohit Sharma.
However, Rohit only scored 34 runs in his two innings, which now could sway the selectors to pick a team that is going to take wickets required to regain the lead in the series.
Ishant Sharma took his career-best bowling figures at the home of cricket, utilising a spell of short-pitched deliveries to sucker the England batsmen into picking out fielders in the deep.
He was able to provoke a collapse similar to that experienced by India in the third Test. Without him in the side, there is a lot of pressure on Bhuvneshwar Kumar with the new ball.
Nevertheless, the loss of Sharma might be softened if James Anderson is suspended for the final two Tests of the summer. The England bowler – who took a five-wicket haul at the Ageas Bowl – will discover the sanction for his altercation with Ravindra Jadeja on Friday.
A four-match ban is the maximum punishment that could be handed to the 32-year-old. And Anderson’s absence would be arguably a bigger loss than that of Sharma.
Regardless, both side’s are unlikely to be at full strength at Old Trafford – meaning that other members of the respective sides need to step up with the ball.