Bhuvneshwar Kumar India
Bhuvneshwar Kumar faces a race against time to prove his fitness for IndiaReuters

Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar remain major doubts for India's defence of their World Cup title, with the fast bowling duo still recovering from their respective injuries.

Bhuvneshwar has struggled with an ankle injury all Australia tour, and only played in the final Test, that too looking quite unfit.

While he did take part in the tri-series that followed, doubts remain over the swing bowler's availability and peak fitness.

Ishant Sharma has struggled with a knee problem for a few weeks now, an injury which was not thought to be too serious initially. However, the lanky pacer has also not recovered 100 percent from the problem leading to speculation that he could miss out on the World Cup with Mohit Sharma the most likely replacement.

"The board has given a deadline to the injured players to prove their fitness but from what we are hearing from the team management that some of them may not be fit to play at the start of the event," a BCCI official told the Times of India, while adding that the two bowlers are "seriously doubtful".

"In that case, it's better to replace them now rather than waiting for the tournament to begin."

The deadline that the BCCI have put on the players is 7 February, a day before India's first warm-up game. All injured players, including Ishant, Bhuvneshwar, Ravindra Jadeja and Rohit Sharma, are expected to undergo fitness tests on Saturday, and while the latter two are expected to pass them, doubts remain over the former two.

However, a team official, currently with the India side in Adelaide, rubbished the reports, saying it is impossible to say which player is fit and not fit considering they haven't practiced even once since India's sojourn in the tri-series ended prematurely.

"As you know, the team is on complete break from cricket," the official was quoted as saying by TOI. "The players who are unfit have been given a schedule to follow. They will not be at the ground before Friday. Till then, there is no way to know who will be fit.

"Yes, it is taking long for the injured players to recover which is not a good sign. It is obvious, if there is any doubt about their fitness, they will have to be replaced."

If one of the 15 original players is ruled out of the World Cup through injury, then India will have to name a replacement and then get it ratified by the ICC, who need to be convinced that the injured player is indeed injured enough not to be able to play a part in the big tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

India are due out for a practice session on Friday, before the fitness tests will be done on Saturday. While Ishant does not have the greatest of recent ODI records, he remains a vital cog in the bowling wheel. Bhuvneshwar is an even more important part of the India team, and the bowler will be a big miss for skipper MS Dhoni if he is indeed ruled out of the tournament.

It also remains to be seen if India decide to go in with the injured bowlers for the first couple of games of the World Cup in the hope that they can recover once the tournament reaches its business end.

India open their World Cup campaign with a high-profile clash against rivals Pakistan on 15 February in Adelaide.