Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Ishant Sharma is a serious doubt for the Test series in New Zealand after MRI scans revealed a grade-three tear in his ankle, which he twisted during Delhi's ongoing Ranji Trophy match on Monday. The local specialist has advised him six weeks' rest and rehab, but the BCCI will wait to make its own independent assessment at the NCA in Bangalore before taking an official decision on his selection.
Sharma came to Feroz Shah Kotla for a while but soon returned home. He has trouble even walking right now, and is likely to go to the NCA in a week's time. India's first Test in New Zealand begins on February 21, exactly a month away, while the practice game they play ahead of it starts on February 14.
Sharma suffered the injury on Monday when he twisted the ankle while turning around for an lbw appeal against Vidarbha batsman Faiz Fazal. Delhi needed a burst from him to overturn the 16-run first-innings deficit, but, a bowler short, they conceded 330 runs and needed to bat the last day out to rescue one point.
His Vidarbha opponent Umesh Yadav is now likely to be the third quick in the Tests in New Zealand with Navdeep Saini expected to be the back-up fast bowler should Sharma not recover in time.
Four short of the incredible feat of 100 Tests - only one Indian fast bowler has managed that - Sharma has been enjoying a late revival over the last three years. He credits it to a recent change in his bowling by which he has been able to pitch the ball fuller without losing any pace. His team with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami has turned India into a feared bowling unit even in away conditions.
"Having a bunch of fast bowlers like this, who can just bowl out any opposition anywhere, is a brilliant thing to have in Indian cricket," their captain Virat Kohli recently said. "[It's] something that we haven't quite relied on in the past, but I think them taking the attention away from the spinners in India is a huge statement, so I think that's what makes us feel that when we travel now, we have it in us to win a series, and not just one-odd Test match here and there. So I think it's been hard work, persistence, learning the game, thinking about the game that's got them to where they are and they deserve it fully."