The support staff of the Liverpool football club, dealing exclusively with the fitness and conditioning of players, is a 17-member strong unit.
It is not that the English Premier League club is paranoid about its team's fitness. It is how the top sports professional outfits operate. Taking extra care of their players is of paramount importance, be it the football clubs, the NBA teams or the rugby squads.
Agreed football, basketball and rugby are contact sports, but the demands and pressures on international cricketers are no less, especially if you happen to be an Indian player.
However, a comparative case study shows that the cricket boards have yet to understand the importance of injury management and prevention for achieving success in sports.
The 16 Indian cricketers touring the West Indies have a three-member team to keep them fit --- physiotherapist Ashish Kaushik, trainer Ramji Srinivasan and masseur Ramesh Mane. It is down by two from the World Cup, where they had an extra masseur and a yoga expert.
It is not surprising then that the team in the West Indies is without as many as five first-choice players, who are down with injuries or illness. Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth and Yuvraj Singh, all missed out on fitness grounds.
Skipper MS Dhoni and VVS Laxman have a recurring ack problem and Sachin Tendulkar has had some issues recently with his groin and left shoulder.
Given this long list, the least the Board of Control for Cricket in India can do is have a solid support staff in tune with the professional outfits the world over. Someone who's had first-hand experience of the situation, former India physio, John Gloster, believes that teams need to be managed better.
Gloster, who was with the Indian team from 2005 to 2008, said, "It is a very, very big job to deal with 16 players. It's too big a job for one physio. With so many players, the sessions are from evening till midnight and then the preparation too starts very quickly if you have an early next game. It can be mentally draining for the physio," said Gloster, who worked for four years with the Bangladesh team and three years with the Surrey County Club before taking up the India assignment.
"A cricket team needs at least two physios and two soft-tissue experts (masseurs) because recovery is very important. Currently, some players don't get as much attention as is required," he said.
The job of the support staff becomes more challenging when you have chronic, injury-prone cases like Australia's Shane Watson or Laxman. They need full-time monitoring. Gloster, who worked with the Rajasthan Royals during the IPL, is a full-time physio for Watson when the all-rounder is touring India. “Watson needs a lot of input and a lot of time. His daily pre-match preparation and post-match recovery sessions last 2-3 hours each. It is impossible for one physio to spare so much time, hence I’ve been working full-time with him since IPL-I.”
Fitness has become even more challenging post-IPL said Gloster. "The travelling and continuous games can be very, very tiring. On top of it, it's quite demanding playing in Indian conditions. The heat and humidity is the main difference."
(with inputs from Amol Karhadkar & Sreejandeep Das)