Wriddhiman Saha’s shoulder surgery is some distance away, but the manner in which the episode has unfolded has already caused waves of anger, frustration and disappointment. That India would be without its best wicketkeeper in the Test series in England, its spinners bereft of his high-quality support in their pursuit to weave a web around the home batsmen.
This drama has a touch of callousness, if not greed, which has led to a situation in which he would be going under a surgeon’s knife at a time when his team-mates would take on England in one of the most looked-forward-to contests. The bowlers, especially Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, will have to look for reassurance in the gamely stumper that Dinesh Karthik is.
To begin with, we must ignore attempts by Saha’s wife and Team Wriddhi to seek the limelight since they do not appear to be sharing full information. “It was prior to the selection for England tour when he was going through fitness drills that we came to know about his shoulder troubles,” she was quoted as saying by the Mumbai Mirror, for instance.
The Board would like us to believe that he reported at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for rehabilitation on 3 July with pain and restriction of movement on his right shoulder. And he underwent an MRI scan the next day, leading to a trip to Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala in Mumbai. The doctor was of the opinion that if Saha’s shoulder did not respond to the steroid injection, surgery would become necessary.
Three doctors prescribed injections ostensibly because they believed that this would help him recover. It worked the first two times, and did not on the third occasion. The doctors and the physiotherapist would have known that there was only a 50 percent chance of the injection restoring the cartilage that reinforces the ball and socket joint.
There is another key question doing the rounds.
Why did the chief selector MSK Prasad not know that it was the shoulder injury that had led to Saha’s non-availability for the Tests against England? Surely, the Board’s acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary was also among those not informed by the NCA and Board’s staff, especially General Manager (Cricket Operations) Saba Karim.
This is another example of how cricket administration has probably worsened over the past year-and-a-half or so. Yet, for the moment, we can let Choudhary and his colleagues fight their unending battles with the Committee of Administrators, which exercises tight control over the BCCI staff. For, there have been attempts to fire at CoA, not from Saha’s shoulder, but about it.
And yes, there are questions about his left hamstring. After all, it was the reason he returned from South Africa in January after the first Test. The Board’s note first indicated that it was merely pain — “left proximal hamstring tendinopathy (pain in the upper left hamstring)” — and then referred to it as an injury. There are no details how that pain/injury was dealt with.
Was there a hamstring injury at all in the first place? We must train our focus on more important things.
What caused the posterosuperior labral tear to worsen when Saha was not playing any cricket and was ostensibly undergoing rehab for a broken thumb? A visit to his Facebook Page would suggest that he oversaw a training camp at the P Sen Memorial Coaching Centre run by the Kalighat Cricket Club besides taking breaks in Lavasa and Mussoorie.
The BCCI timeline on the Saha injury makes it clear that he reported to the NCA on 3 July with a shoulder complaint. There was apparently no issue with his right shoulder when he played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) from 12 April to 7 May and then on 25 May. That he did not play the inaugural Test against Afghanistan was due to a broken thumb.
There are two possibilities here: First, the first two injections only provided him temporary relief and did not address the root cause; Second, he himself did not pay attention to his shoulder during the time he was not playing either for the country or for his club and somehow did not realise that his shoulder tear was only getting worse.
If the first were true, then the player himself and those who were managing his injury were in a hurry to get him to play the cash-rich IPL. That would call for introspection by the powers-that-be and the player himself that the shoulder injury should have been dealt with a bit more seriously than was done.
And if the second scenario were true, Saha can cope the blame for not looking after himself with the intensity that a professional cricketer of his stature should have. Perhaps, Saha should have been in the NCA premises in Bengaluru and strengthening his shoulder in a guided manner. Or he could have trained under the watchful eyes of the Bengal physiotherapist if he had to be in Kolkata.
By the looks of it, it can be surmised that Saha has not paid as much attention to his shoulder rehabilitation — particularly in the wake of the decision to return to IPL matches inside two weeks after getting injured in Hyderabad on 7 May. As his luck would have it, he seems to have spent more time dealing with the thumb than recognising a deeper problem.
The moot question is: Should the country’s richest sports body not have a better system to monitor a player’s fitness than it has at the moment? The casual approach by everyone concerned, including Saha himself, has denied the Indian Test team the chance to field the best wicketkeeper in the coming series in England, leaving Karthik to shoulder the burden.