An already depleted Indian squad has been stretched further with injuries to Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja during the team's first innings in the Sydney Test.
"Rishabh Pant still has some pain in his elbow. He is currently being treated. Ravindra Jadeja has a dislocation in his left thumb," said a BCCI spokesperson on Sunday, at the start of the fourth day's play.*
Both men had sustained their injuries on the third day. Pant, hit on the elbow, did not take the field in Australia's second innings, and went to the hospital for scans. Jadeja, who received a blow to the thumb, didn't take the field either and though he was initially present at the SCG on the third afternoon, he too was taken to the hospital for scans. Jadeja had earlier missed the T20I series with a concussion and a hamstring injury.
Coming into the Sydney Test, India had already lost Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and KL Rahul to injuries, and Virat Kohli to paternity leave. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not possible to fly in replacements should a side need them.
Pant's wicketkeeping gloves were taken up by Wriddhiman Saha, a substitution made possible by a recent amendment in the playing conditions allowing wicketkeepers to be replaced by other wicketkeepers. However, should Pant not be available to bat in the second innings, Saha won't be able to replace him.
Should substitutes be allowed for non-concussion injuries?
Pant was hit in the elbow when trying to pull pat Cummins, but the ball kept low and skidded on to miss the bat. It took a long time and attention from the physio to put Pant back up, but it was apparent he was struggling during the brief time he spent at the wicket after the injury.
Jadeja was hit on the left thumb as he fended at a rising delivery from Mitchell Starc. Commentators on air speculated if he had dislocated his thumb, but he, too, carried on batting after treatment from the physio.
Should the duo not be available for the next Test, Saha will have to play, but there is no allrounder to replace Jadeja in the squad. India might be forced to look at an extra batsman - Mayank Agarwal in all likelihood - or the spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
Recently, Sri Lanka went through similar struggle with injuries in South Africa. Their coach Mickey Arthur tweeted: "This is a very real concern for touring teams in Covid times, bowlers under a lot of stress as conditioning is not what it should be due to bubble restrictions and quarantine.....we paid the price for it in South Africa!"
*This story was updated at 11.20 pm GMT, January 9, after a BCCI update on the status of the injured players.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo