Cricket

India's burgeoning injury-list calls for pragmatic relook at relentless scheduling; must serve wake-up call to BCCI

Indian cricket has suffered excessively owing to injuries these last two to three years. However, the really important year lies ahead when the World Cup in England starts late May.

India's burgeoning injury-list calls for pragmatic relook at relentless scheduling; must serve wake-up call to BCCI

A cursory look at National Cricket Academy’s ‘sick bay wounded soldiers' over the past couple of years reads like the who’s who of Indian cricket: Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Rohit Sharma, Kedar Jadhav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Sharadul Thakur, Axar Patel, Murali Vijay, et al.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar missed the entire England series to injury. AP/ File

Bhuvneshwar Kumar missed the entire England series to injury. AP/ File

Sadly many of these injuries had occurred during the season and thus upset the team's balance, even while causing immense harm to its chance of success. The recent tour of England where ace seamer Bhuvneshwar was ruled out of the Test series and Bumrah was available only after the second Test are a case in point. Bhuvi’s bowling would have been tailor-made for English conditions, except that he was not around to exploit it.

Currently, although skipper Kohli has been included for Tests against the West Indies, there are doubts about the suppleness of his wrists. Would it not be prudent to rest him for these Tests so that he could be in prime fitness for the tougher Australian tour, is a point to ponder over.

It is an undeniable reality that sport-related injuries are a part and parcel of a sportsman’s career. But it is the recurring and frequent injuries to national players that have caused concern.

Did players aggravate injuries by hiding niggles and strains in order to play matches and meet contractual obligations to sponsors is a question doing the rounds. Many contracts are drawn such that the player must turn out in a certain number of matches for the national team to be eligible for higher sponsorship fees. Failure to do so would not only impact his earning capacity for the current year, but also adversely impact his agent’s ability to negotiate for subsequent years.

It could be argued that this clause is a worry only for lesser players. But there is little doubt that the hurry to get back into the thick of action has led individual and team to a worse situation.

For instance, if a team enters a Test with just four bowlers and one of them misleads the team management into believing he is fully fit, not only would the deception increase the workload on the other three bowlers, it could also lead to one of them breaking down because of extra work.

The bigger problem — the elephant in the room — is the Indian Premier League. These matches are played in peak summer when temperatures hover around the mid-40s in most Indian cities. It is certainly not the weather to engage in any sport but then that’s the window ideal for commercial exploitation.

Teams, in a bid to get used to the excessive heat during matches, train in identical conditions. This further saps the players. Of course, franchise owners are wary of these problems and rope in specialists to oversee players’ diet, physical training, monitoring, and recovery.

Players’ intake of liquids and replenishments are strictly monitored to the extent that urine samples are regularly taken to ascertain requirements.

Despite this constant monitoring, problems arise when foreign fitness trainers push Indian players a bit too hard without appreciating that fitness and strength levels between Indians and say, West Indies or Australians, are quite different. Those unused to the regimen wake up with troublesome niggles but are expected to be made match-fit by the physios.

Franchise owners frown on a crucial player being benched on niggle or ache worries. They have a match to be won, and have hired player, dietician, trainer, masseur and phsyios to ensure that the best eleven takes the field match after match. They brook no argument on this.

This non-stop action in peak summer for over two months (training, nets, practice matches, etc) is bound to tell on the physical well-being of a player. Unfortunately there is little ‘down time’ before and after IPL and this further aggravates the problem.

Hopefully, the lessons learnt from 10 years of IPL could be put to good use in the near future, especially where fitness issues and injury management are concerned. Should the BCCI have a monitoring system in place even during IPL is an issue that will have to be decided sooner rather than later.

Indian cricket has suffered excessively owing to injuries these last two to three years. However, the really important year lies ahead when the World Cup in England starts late May.

Player rotation and a superior injury management system needs to be put in place immediately to ensure that the long and challenging season ahead does not rob India of its best cricketers for the game’s most important event, the World Cup. Time for BCCI to wake up and smell the coffee.

Updated Date: October 01, 2018 11:20:10 IST

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