Nitin Patel can stop worrying about Virender Sehwag’s shoulder, VVS Laxman’s back and Ishant Sharma’s ankle for a while as South African Evan Speechly gets ready to replace him as India’s physio ahead of the third Test in Mumbai starting Tuesday.
The Indian cricket board has appointed Speechly on a two-year contract, a welcome change after Patel and Paul Close were made to swap the role twice in the last two years.
The South African has worked with the likes of Virat Kohli and Zaheer Khan as the physio of Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL. He also worked in the sports medicine clinic in Johannesburg where Zaheer had his shoulder operated on by Dr Mark Ferguson.
Speechly’s experience of working with Zaheer can help India, who are likely to take a punt on the pacer for the Australia tour starting next month. During the Champions League T20 in September, Speechly spoke to HT about what possibly went wrong with Zaheer in England, denting India’s chances in the Tests.
“Zaheer’s ankle injury in my opinion was a big contributing factor to his hamstring going (in England),” he had said. “We at RCB were trying to get the rest of his body to work around his ankle, and in T20 cricket where he had to bowl four overs, we were able to manage him. But when he had to bowl 20 overs in a day (it was not possible).”
Speechly’s expertise could be the key as India try to manage an ageing Test side that has a number of players with a history of injuries.
“Evan’s strengths include his ability to establish rapport with sportsmen of every age group and his humble manner. Yet his wealth of skill demands respect from them at the same time,” said Andrew Leipus, the physio credited with changing the attitude of the Indian cricket board and cricketers towards fitness during his India stint between 1999 and 2004.