India's casualty ward adds to Dhoni's woes
India are not far away from being able to name a star-studded injured XI after their casualty list continued to mount on a dank day at Chester-le-Street. Sachin Tendulkar pulled out before play due to a foot injury, putting his tour in doubt, then Rohit Sharma suffered a finger injury first ball when fending off a delivery from Stuart Broad and it would be a surprise if he wasn't soon on a plane home as well.
It added to an already lengthy list of players who have been ruled out of the tour. Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir have all had to depart at various points over the past month as long-standing and fresh injuries disrupted their tours. India's woes were almost capped off when MS Dhoni nearly joined the list of wounded when he mildly twisted his ankle while training in the middle of the Riverside ground on Friday afternoon. However, he escaped serious problems and the pain subsided by the morning of game.
Instead he was left to reflect on the growing assortment of aliments to impact his squad and rue India's best chance of claiming their first international victory of the tour, as rain arrived after 7.2 overs of England's chase with the home side wobbling on 27 for 2 chasing a testing 275.
In less than two months India have now lost seven frontline players and, even if most of these were injuries suffered on the job, India's 4-0 series defeat in the Tests and then finishing second in a closely fought Twenty20 match at Old Trafford has brought the issue of injury management once again to the fore.
After India lost the first Test at Lord's, Dhoni said, "everything that could go wrong did go wrong." It summed up India's lack of preparation for the tour along with the BCCI's ignorance of not treating the series as a marquee event. As at Lord's so in Durham as Dhoni sat on the fence, refusing to take a hard stance on how the injuries could be avoided.
"Whatever could go wrong went wrong," he said once again. "But every match it has been increasing right from Bhajji [Harbhajan Singh] not bowling in the second Test then Gautam [Gambhir] not being able to bat in the second innings, then missing a Test match so all sorts of things have happened. But we are still fighting with whatever resources we have got."
Dhoni added that fielding his first choice XI had become an impossible dream as he is left with what is quickly looking like a shadow squad. "It is really difficult as you would like to always play with your best eleven but at times you don't get that because of injuries. But this time we have gone down really hard."
Although the media and supporters would like Dhoni to be more forceful over the issue he is in a tough situation with two weeks left to make the most of the players available. However, he did suggest that increasing the size of touring squads might be an option in the future. "It would not be bad idea to travel with 18 players, something which we could look into."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo