India went down to England by 266 runs in the third Test in Southampton on Thursday, but there was more bad news for the tourists after skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni confirmed that senior pacer Ishant Sharma will miss the fourth Test in Manchester from Monday (August 7). Injured Ishant missed the third Test at Ageas Bowl.
Ishant had bowled India to victory at Lord's, with a sensational seven-wicket burst, bouncing England's batsmen with short balls and intimidating with pace. However, the lanky Delhi pacer had to sit out of the Rose Bowl Test, paving the way for Pankaj Singh to make his Test debut. Singh failed to bag a single wicket in either innings.
Ishant has had major injury concerns in the past but this one, in the middle of a crucial series, will hurt India. Especially after losing at Southampton.
"Ishant won't be fit for the next game (at Old Trafford)," Dhoni said during the post-match chat after England won to level the five-Test series 1-1. Dhoni slammed his bowlers for not bowling in the right areas. However, the skipper praised rookie Pankaj for his efforts despite spells of 0/146 and 0/33.
"Pankaj bowled really well,. He is a tall guy, who bowled good lengths. In this pitch, he bowled the right length. He could have got three wickets but it just didn't go his way," Dhoni said after the match.
Dhoni said his bowlers needed to improve and focus on hitting the top of off-stump. Ishant had revealed how Dhoni forced him to bowl bouncers and he followed instructions perfectly to deliver a match-winning spell at Lord's.
"It is the bowling we need to improve and hit the top of off stump. We will have to think about the four-bowler strategy. We can say the extra batsman didn't score, but then again the extra bowler did not pick wickets. So we have to discuss a lot and decide on the basis of the pitch," Dhoni said indicating possible changes for the fourth match.
Dhoni, who scored a gritty half-century in the first innings, but failed to battle on the last day, was miffed with the soft dismissals that his deputy Virat Kohli had tried to justify. "I don't think we played good cricket. We played the fast bowler well. Moeen (Ali) bowled well, but we let him bowl well," Dhoni said.
"Moeen bowled good lines and the odd ball was expected to turn; there was some wear on the wicket and we should have been more positive. There were quite a few soft dismissals."
The Indian captain rued the loss of four wickets on the penultimate day and said India could have looked at the final day differently had they not lost key batsmen like Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan on Wednesday.