India have suffered a big blow ahead of the two-match Test series against New Zealand with their senior pacer Ishant Sharma all but ruled out of the first game. The most experienced member of India’s famous pace attack suffered an ankle injury last month while playing for Delhi against Vidarbha in the ongoing Ranji Trophy.

Earlier reports claimed that the right-arm pacer had suffered a grade 3 tear and would completely miss out on playing the series. But the injury was not as serious as it was initially thought of as Ishant Sharma went to National Cricket Academy for the rehabilitation programme.

And while he was expected to get fit in time for the upcoming series, The Times of India has reported that he is yet to get fit and will be missing the opening Test. Missing Ishant Sharma for the first Test will be a huge blow for India. The right-arm pacer was the Man of the Match in India’s last Test assignment which was the historic pink-ball Test against Bangladesh in November. With Jasprit Bumrah struggling, Ishant’s presence would have been a big boost for the Virat Kohli-led side.

Ishant Sharma, Virat Kohli
Ishant Sharma with Virat Kohli (Credits: BCCI)

In his absence, the team management will have to pick between Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini while Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are guaranteed in the playing eleven. Umesh Yadav had impressed during the home season in absence of Bumrah and could get the nod once again.

The Test series kicks off on February 21 with Basin Reserve, Wellington hosting the opening game. The second Test will be played at Hagley Oval in Christchurch from February 29. India will be desperate to bounce back in the series after being whitewashed in the three-match ODI series. The visitors have won all of their seven games in the Test Championship so far and enter the series as slight favourites.

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