The average workload of an international cricketer is substantially less than most other athletes. But Mahendra Singh Dhoni doesn’t follow norms. In the last five years Dhoni has played more internationals and IPL matches (combined) than anyone else in world cricket. Somewhere between non-stop touring and nurturing Brand Dhoni, he has spent 819 days (see table) on a cricket pitch since arriving in December 2004.
He must be a spent man.
Dhoni’s picking up a hamstring injury while batting on Sunday shouldn’t come as a shock. Hamstring injuries are common to wicketkeepers. But that he has dodged injuries for a little over three years is an achievement.
Unlike modern cricketers, Dhoni trusts in natural remedy for aching joints, sore muscles, and back spasms. Tell him that an ice bath can bring relief and he’d have his own logic: "Muscles are sore because your mind is making you feel they are."
An India team masseur was taken aback when he first met Dhoni in October 2005. "When I offered him a massage, he said ‘No bhai, I am good. Please treat someone who needs it’. I was shocked," he told HT.
"Dhoni believes negative energy causes body pain. He’s always positive and knows that he’s the master of his body. He feels a massage would make him lazy and dependent. That’s why in the last seven years that I’ve been with him in the Indian team, he has never asked me for a massage," he said. "He’s had problems with his knee, but how many games has he missed since his debut?"
Heath Matthews, the South African physiotherapist and rehabilitation specialist credited for success of many top Indian athletes, acknowledged Dhoni’s approach. "It is a very individual thing. Lot of it has to do with inherent muscles. Some are flexible. Some are more susceptible to injuries," added Matthews.
"If you can strap Dhoni in an ice suit, you must be a genius. Experienced athletes like him will tell you to take a walk. Pros know what they need to do to play at their best. There is no need to tell them anything," Matthews added.
Matthews highlighted Rafael Nadal’s reluctance to use a physio, "on court, he would never be near a physio’s room. Doesn’t mean one is right or wrong. Whatever works for them is what they should do. I hardly ever saw Nadal in the gym. Nobody really knows how and where he does his fitness. The flipside of that is that I can walk into gym and find that Novak Djokovic will be working on something."