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Painting a painful picture

With cricketers breaking down frequently, something is seriously wrong with BCCI's injury management. Amol Karhadkar writes.

cricket Updated: Aug 24, 2011 01:47 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
Amol Karhadkar,sreesanth,sehwag

July 2010, Colombo: S Sreesanth, having recovered from an injury he had suffered during the Indian Premier League, is expected to lead India's pace attack in the Test series against Sri Lanka. However, the Kerala speedster breaks down during the first practice session on the tour.

July 2011, London: Zaheer Khan, having recovered from an ankle injury, breaks down on Day One of the all-important series in England.

August 2011, London: Virender Sehwag, returning after a shoulder surgery, is visibly struggling in his two Test appearances and is ruled out of the limited overs' leg in England to undergo more rehabilitation.

The character, the destination and the sub-plot keep changing but the premise of "The Great Indian Injury Tamasha" remains intact. Looking at the ugly past of players feeling the pinch in their comeback bids, Indian cricket's apathy towards injury management gets underlined day in and day out.

After the annihilation in the Test series, largely owing to Zaheer and Sehwag's hasty comeback bids, it is high time the decision-makers in the largest and richest cricketing set-up re-evaluated their injury management mechanism.

Onus on players
Every time a half-fit player has taken the field - there have been numerous instances - the murmurs of a player's self-assessment being preferred over the physio's arises in Indian cricket. At a time when the medical team for the first time has an all-India look, the possibility of the support staff being bogged down by a player's star appeal increases even more.

However, John Gloster, who was the Indian team's physiotherapist for more than three years since 2005, feels the players cannot do that anymore.

"A player plays a very important role- the honesty and integrity of the player comes into the equation. I think now all the senior players are very aware of their own bodies," he says. "They are aware of the conditions, so I don't think we can blame them. Players themselves would never go into a series knowing they are underdone."

Then what led to the embarrassing situation in England? Gloster doesn't have a direct answer. "When we were there, there was a really good communication network between myself and the trainer; and also between the selection committee and the physio and trainer. That's an important connect. And the other important connect was between the team management and the BCCI."

Existing set-up
At the moment, the BCCI has six physios and five trainers on its payrolls. One physio is with the national team, two are based at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. The others are deputed at the BCCI's specialised academies - in Mumbai (batting), Mohali (pace bowling) and Kolkata (spin bowling).

However, only the contracted players of the Board have direct access to the NCA for rehab. The physios stationed at the other academies end up taking care of only those junior players who attend the sporadic camps organised for batches of six to eight at a time.

This means other than the top 25 cricketers in India, if anyone wants help, he first has to seek BCCI clearance. Had the BCCI paid heed to suggestions by Andrew Leipus, the Board could have had a proper system in place by now. He had suggested hiring two physios at the NCA and one each in the five zones to make them accessible to all players, including juniors. However, the report - just like many more useful documents - lies unused in BCCI's closet.

Training physios
The Board also hasn't lived up to expectations in grooming home-grown physios. It needs time for a physio to get specialised for sports. The BCCI is yet to make it mandatory for age-group and senior teams in the domestic game to be accompanied by a physio and/or trainer for all matches. Gloster has a radical suggestion: "Perhaps it can be achieved through the IPL. A physio coming from overseas should perhaps be accompanied by a local physio as assistant so that they can learn."

First Published: Aug 24, 2011 00:12 IST