iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times
Rajkot, October 12, 2013
Cheteshwar Pujara’s penchant for big scores is only growing. The young India No 3 produced a brilliant triple century on Friday, his second in first-class cricket, hammering an unbeaten 306 for India ‘A’ in the four-day ‘Test’ against West Indies in Hubli. India’s Test batting mainstay has enjoyed a golden run in the last one year, reeling off two first-class triple centuries and three double tons.

The 25-year-old produced a 415-delivery masterclass studded with 33 fours, the skipper’s sublime knock helping declare the first innings at 564 for nine at tea, a lead of 296 runs. West Indies ‘A’ were 116 for three at stumps, 180 runs behind and facing defeat.

Managing fitness

Pujara owes his emergence as Indian cricket’s marathon man to the medical support he has received for managing his knees following surgeries to both for ligament tear.

In world sport, there are examples of outstanding talent bowing out to injuries when they should have gone on to achieve greater heights.

England striker Michael Owen, England pacer Simon Jones, a hero of the epic 2005 Ashes win and Dutch football legend Marco van Basten were all victims of injuries.

However, there are also cases of sportsmen being fortunate to bounce back. Brazil striker Ronaldo underwent three knee surgeries but went on to win everything, powering Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002.

Pujara suffered freak injuries at the start of his international career. But with the right treatment and care, he’s come out stronger and his knees are carrying the load of India’s batting in Tests. His family, anxious that he stays in shape, has entrusted the job of monitoring him to Dr Nirbhay Shah — a sports injury specialist and joint replacement surgeon from Rajkot.

“There are only 8% cases where someone suffers ligament tear in both knees,” says Shah.

“Due to past injuries, his father is concerned. Anytime Cheteshwar has an injury scare, he calls me to look at the recording. Then, in the evening Cheteshwar will call and discuss to sort out any issue.”

Tough choice

In fact, when Pujara suffered his first serious knee injury, before the 2009 IPL in South Africa, his father wanted him to be operated by Dr Shah. “However, (KKR owner) Shah Rukh convinced me it should be handled by the world-renowned surgeon in South Africa. But he told me to get whoever I wanted to for the treatment. I was in panic but Dr Shah accompanied me to Cape Town.”

Shah says: “I have been involved a lot with the Pujara family’s health issues.” When Pujara’s father, Arvind, suffered a heart-attack, it was Shah who rushed him to the hospital. “He had spoken to me that day and my number was at the top of his phone list, so he redialled the number and I could rush to his help.”