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Mumbai: India are ‘Down Under’ from the word go. Both Rohit Sharma and Ishant are out of the first two Tests, and their availability for the rest of the series is under a cloud.

They are undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. Rohit is supposedly better after a hamstring injury and is working on strength and conditioning. Ishant, on the other hand, is yet to recover from a side strain.

After considering the imponderables, it has been conveyed to the BCCI that the duo will require close to a month to be match fit. This means they can be written off for the limited-overs leg of the series, which begins with the ODIs on Friday (November 27).

To be in contention for the third Test, Ishant, who has regained bowling fitness but needs four weeks of workload to be ready for the rigours of Test-match play, will have to board a plane almost immediately.

The 14-day hard quarantine rule in Australia means he can start training only after two weeks; add another four weeks of preparatory training, and he can only be match-ready for the third Test, starting on January 7 in Sydney.

National coach Ravi Shastri had on Sunday stated that the two cricketers' chances of playing the Test series hinge on whether they are able to board a flight to Australia within this week.

The Indian team, which landed here after the IPL earlier this month on a chartered flight, was allowed to train in quarantine as Australia battled a fresh wave of COVID-19 cases.

"If you need to play in the Test series or any red-ball cricket, you've got to be on the flight in the next three or four days. If you aren't, then it's going to be tough," Shastri had said.

With skipper Virat Kohli returning to India to be at Anushka’s bedside and herald the birth of his first child, it will be a much depleted side that is expected to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

The four-Test series, after the day-night opener in Adelaide, will move to Melbourne (December 26 to 30), followed by games in Sydney (January 7 to 11) and Brisbane (January 15 to 19).

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