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Workload or too casual?

cricket Updated: Aug 05, 2011 00:57 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
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Zaheer Khan apparently doesn't like to bowl a day or two ahead of a match. The left-arm pacer, more often than not, stays in his room, or does his own stuff at the nets instead of going full throttle. "He has his own methods to prepare. He hits the gym, and works on his recovery," is the line the team management often reels out to explain his absence.

While his methods - whatever they are - have turned him into a world-class bowler, it surely hasn't helped his fitness. Watching him clutch his hamstring, feel his groin and wobble on a troubled ankle has become as frequent and predictable as him dismissing Graeme Smith and Andrew Strauss.

Why just him? Almost every other India bowler has picked up injuries at an alarming rate in the last couple of years, leaving one wondering whether they operate on a cricket field or battlefield.

While popular opinion blames it on a cramped schedule and excessive workload, there is also a school of thought that holds players' casual and unprofessional approach for the recurring breakdowns.http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/050811/05_08_11-metro17.jpg

"If Zaheer Khan breaks down after a rehab of close to two months, who do you blame for this? Obviously, he hasn't taken care of himself, the person monitoring his rehab wasn't up to the mark, and those who took his fitness test and declared him fit didn't do their job well," said Manoj Prabhakar, former India paceman who is the Delhi bowling coach.

Prabhakar feels the ever-growing injury list is the result of players not taking proper care of themselves.

"It all depends on an individual. Maintaining your fitness is your job, not the physio's. If you don't take care of the niggles you pick up everyday, it's going to create problems. In our times, there was nobody around to help, but we would come back to our rooms and work on niggles. We would see what Kapil Dev was doing to stay fit and would try to follow that."

Kapil Dev, who had a remarkably injury-free career for a fast bowler, refrained from talking about the fitness of the current crop of players, and the methods that helped him keep fit.

"It's not the right time to talk about it. The team is down, and we should support it," said the former India captain.

Off-spinner Sarkar Talwar, his former Haryana teammate, offered a peek into Kapil's training regimen.

"He was a born athlete. But what helped him the most to stay fit was how he bowled untiringly in the nets. He would usually bowl to every batsman in the nets, and then do a lot of ground training and running," he said.

Sadly, such basics don't appear to be too high on the must-do lists of the new age cricketers.