Langer blames IPL for injury-wracked Test series between Australia and India

Langer blames IPL for injury-wracked Test series between Australia and India

Australia coach Justin Langer suggested Wednesday the delayed Indian Premier League was to blame for so many injuries marring Australia's blockbuster series' with India.

The short-form extravaganza normally begins in March, but along with other major international sporting events was postponed as countries went into coronavirus lockdowns. 

It was then moved to the United Arab Emirates as cases rose in India and only got under way on September 19, culminating on November 11.

Players then had to go through a 14-day quarantine in Australia with the one-day series starting almost immediately after they were allowed out.

"It's really interesting how many injuries there have been throughout this summer," said Langer.

"We suffered through it during the white-ball series and (India) through the Test series.

"We'll review this, but I can't help think that the IPL this year probably wasn't ideal timing for anyone, certainly for such a big series like this."

David Warner and Marcus Stoinis were among Australians injured during the white-ball series.

India were then depleted during the high-stakes Tests series, which culminates with the final match of four in Brisbane this week.

They have lost experienced fast bowlers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, along with batsman KL Rahul, while allrounder Ravindra Jadeja is the latest to be ruled out with a dislocated thumb.

There are fitness doubts over batsman Hanuma Vihari for the Gabba Test after he tore a hamstring in the second innings at Sydney on Monday, with spinner Ravi Ashwin nursing a back issue and reports in Indian media saying that fast-bowling spearhead Jasprit Bumrah could miss out with a side strain.

"I love the IPL. I look at the IPL now like I used to look at (English) county cricket for young players, you go and play county cricket and it helps their development enormously," said Langer.

"I think it's the same with the IPL with our players, it helps their white-ball development.

"But the timing of it ... probably wasn't ideal and I wonder if that's having an impact on the injuries we are seeing for both teams throughout this summer."

India out to breach Australia's Gabba fortress

Injury-hit India head to Australia's Gabba fortress for Friday's final Test with high hopes of retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy after securing an epic draw in Sydney to leave the series locked at 1-1.

The visitors only need to avoid defeat in Brisbane after their heroics in Sydney, when they batted out the final day against Australia's much-vaunted bowling attack.

Australia have come under fire for captain Tim Paine's sledging and accusations that Steve Smith deliberately scuffed up batsman Rishabh Pant's guard during the tense fifth day. Allegations of racist abuse from the crowd also overshadowed the Test.

But Australia will be optimistic of snatching a series win at the Gabba, where they are unbeaten in more than three decades, especially as India have been hit by succession of injuries.

All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja became the latest ruled out on Wednesday after dislocating his left thumb in Sydney, while Indian media reported that fast-bowling spearhead Jasprit Bumrah could miss out with an abdominal strain.

The visitors were already without experienced quicks Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma, and batsman KL Rahul, while captain Virat Kohli is on paternity leave.

If Bumrah cannot play, their already inexperienced attack will be led by Mohammed Siraj, who has only played two Tests, alongside Navdeep Saini who made his debut at Sydney plus one of the uncapped T. Natarajan or Shardul Thakur.

They also have doubts over the fitness of number six batsman Hanuma Vihari, who tore his hamstring during his 161-ball vigil for 23 runs that helped earn the unlikely draw on Monday.

Fellow Sydney hero Ravi Ashwin, who spent more than three hours at the crease with Vihari in an unbroken sixth-wicket stand to save the game, has a back issue.

Despite the horror injury-run, India's former great Sunil Gavaskar believes they can win in Brisbane, where crowds will be capped at 50 percent to guard against possible coronavirus infections.

"I know that the Gabba in Brisbane is Australia's fortress but India have the ability to take on the Australians," he told Indian media this week.

"They (Australia) have not lost there since 1988 but there is always a first time. If Ajinkya Rahane and company do it, I won't be surprised at all."

- 'Shocked and disappointed' -

Australia go into the game after stinging criticism of their desperate last-day antics in Sydney, with Paine forced to apologise for his ugly tirade at Ashwin.

Paine had already been fined for dissent after an expletive-laden rant at umpire Paul Wilson on day two, with some pundits saying his days as captain are now numbered.

Smith told Australia's Daily Telegraph that he was "shocked and disappointed" by the reaction to footage of him raking the crease with his studs.

But with Australia losing the second Test in Melbourne and failing to bowl India out for victory in Sydney, there is pressure on the home side not only to perform, but also to keep their behaviour in check.

"I've said from the start of this series that it'll be the survival of the fittest, both mentally and physically," said Australia coach Justin Langer on Wednesday.

"The distractions are just part of the theatre and drama, it is now and it always has been," he added.

Australia have their own injury worries with young opener Will Pucovski facing an anxious wait after suffering a partial dislocation of his right shoulder while fielding in Sydney.

Langer said that if Pucovski wasn't fit, Marcus Harris would likely step in as opener alongside David Warner, who is also not 100 percent as he continues to recover from a groin strain. 

Meanwhile off-spinner Nathan Lyon will play his 100th Test needing just four wickets to reach a career total of 400.

"We're going to get ourselves back up and be ready for this Test match. Bring it on," said Langer.

Lyon eyes 400 wickets in 100th Test

Australia's Nathan Lyon is eyeing twin milestones in the fourth Test at Brisbane this week -- 400 wickets in his 100th appearance -- and promised Wednesday he was "far from done".

The veteran will become only the 13th Australian to become a Test centurion, joining the likes of Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, current Australia coach Justin Langer and fellow spin king Shane Warne.

"I look at the other 12 guys who have played more than 100 Test matches of cricket for Australia and they're pure legends," Lyon said.

"Not just for Australia but (other 100-Test players from) all around the world, I'm going to pinch myself each and every day to see my name up against those fellows."

"I'm pretty excited about this... just the thought of playing 100 Test matches for Australia is very humbling," he added.

A classical off-spinner, the 33-year-old has been virtually a constant fixture since making his debut almost a decade ago and is now on the cusp of 400 wickets.

He goes into the fourth Test against India from Friday needing four more to become just the 16th player worldwide to achieve the feat, and the third Australian after Warne and Glenn McGrath.

"I'm far from being done," Lyon said. "I'm still hungrier than ever. I want to go out there and play as much cricket for Australia as I can... win a lot of Test series for Australia."

Lyon's best haul was the 8-50 he took against India at Bengaluru in 2017.

Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan tops the all-time Test wicket-takers with 800, followed by Warne on 708 with the Australian legend recently predicting Lyon could overtake them both.

"If he keeps himself injury free, I think he could easily go on and play for another five years," Warne said in a column for the Sydney Daily Telegraph last week.

"That's approximately another 50 Tests, and if he continues to take four wickets per game, then that is another 200 -– or maybe 250 if he has a golden five years -– Test wickets.

"You put that on top of his 400 and he's in the 600-650 wicket club at 38 years of age. And if he's still going well then he might have a crack at me and Murali, which would be awesome to see."