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Injured Ishant to miss first ODI

Sidebottom’s injury acts up, to sit out Rajkot match

— Photo: K.R. Deepak

WARMING UP: Yuvraj Singh, seen at a practice session ahead of the first one-dayer against England at Rajkot, will be keen to get back into action.

Rajkot: India suffered a big setback ahead of the first One-Day International against England with pace bowling hero Ishant Sharma being ruled out of the first game due to a mild ankle injury.

The lanky Ishant, who bagged the Man-of-the-Series honour in the recent Test series against Australia with 15 wickets, has been advised rest for five days which has also put a question mark on his availability for the second match in Indore on Monday.

Ankle sprain

“Ishant Sharma has got a mild ankle sprain and he has been advised rest for five days. He is undergoing his rehabilitation at present and is making good progress. Hence he would not be available for the first ODI against England”, the BCCI said in a press release.

The BCCI has not named a substitute for Ishant in the 15-member ODI squad which has three specialist pacemen in Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and Rudra Pratap Singh.

Ishant’s injury could now pave the way for R.P. Singh to feature in the opening match here on Friday.

Broad may play

England was also hit by injury concerns as Ryan Sidebottom would also miss Friday’s match.

Sidebottom will sit out due to an Achilles tendon problem picked up during England’s brief tour of the West Indies earlier this month.

England was, however, hopeful that paceman Stuart Broad would play in Rajkot after suffering a knee injury during a practice match in Mumbai on Sunday.

England team spokesman Andrew Walpole said the swelling in Broad’s knee had been injected and was being monitored closely.

“At the moment we are hopeful that he’ll be fit for the first match,” he said.

“The plan for him is to bowl at nets tomorrow morning and see if there is any reaction to it.”

The pitch prepared at the Madhavrao Scindia Stadium here is expected to assist seam bowlers initially, according to the cricket board’s West Zone curator-in-charge, Dhiraj Parsana.

“The pitch will assist pace bowlers for the first one to one-and-a-half hours as we have left some grass on it and there would be some sweating under the covers before the 9 a.m. start.

“We have tried to see that there’s good carry for the bowlers throughout. If I was India captain I would field first on winning the toss as the team has the bowlers to exploit the conditions in the first hour or so,” the former Test left-arm bowler said.

“It would be good for the strokemakers too as more shots can be played on the backfoot rather than when they are forced to play on the frontfoot on wickets that afford only knee-high bounce,” he added.

If Parsana, who has overseen the wicket preparation by ground curator Rasik Makwana, is proved right then India looks certain to rue the absence of Ishant Sharma.

The lanky bowler is here with the team and also took part in the optional net session, skipped by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, speedster Zaheer Khan and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. Sharma moved gingerly on the field and just helped in catching practice to the others.

Poor response

Meanwhile, the Saurashtra Cricket Association secretary, Niranjan Shah, said response from the crowd was “not as good as before,” but hoped things would improve.

India has played nine matches here and lost five, including the last match in early 2007, before the World Cup, when it lost to Sri Lanka by five runs.

India has beaten Sri Lanka twice (1994 and 2005) while notching up victories over Zimbabwe and the West Indies in 2000 and 2002.

The four losses before the one against Lanka last year came against Australia (1986), the first ODI here, West Indies (1988), South Africa (1996) and New Zealand (1999).

The track here has generally assisted the batsmen with scores of over 300 notched up on four occasions with 349 for nine by New Zealand — India replied with 306 — being the best so far. There have been three other totals of 260 and above. — Agencies

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