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Fitness drama bodes ill for Pakistan tour

What transpired at the Selection Committee meeting in Kolkata on Monday does not augur too well for India's path-breaking tour of Pakistan.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2004 02:24 IST

What transpired at the Selection Committee meeting in Kolkata on Monday does not augur too well for India's path-breaking tour of Pakistan. It is quite obvious that the selectors struggled to find bowlers fit enough to cross the border. Going by the recent 'fitness history' of India's two pace spearheads -- Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra -- one is not sure whether the two are really fit for the arduous task ahead of them.

The two have broken down so often at crucial junctures that one has little faith in the certificates they produced to prove their fitness. For all the talk of professionalism and the excellent support system that the BCCI has placed at the team's command, Indian cricket has still not come out of its feudal mentality. There still are some players more equal than the others.

Take the case of Nehra. When the Australians were here he travelled with the team all over on the pretext that he needed the help of the team physio and trainer to get back into shape after the surgery on his ankle. He went on to play in the final one-dayer where he was sent to the cleaners. What was shocking was not the thrashing that the Australian bowlers gave him, but the fact that Nehra was not told to play for his team Delhi in the Ranji Trophy matches to prove his fitness.

This time around the selectors have, at least, not tried to repeat the same mistake. It is to their credit that they responded to the demands of his retention in the team by first raising the question of his fitness. In a country like Australia, someone like Nehra, or even Zaheer, would have been penalised for hiding their injuries but here they are time and again being condoned because the team thinks they are "indispensable".

It defies comprehension why Nehra didn't deem it fit to play in the ongoing Duleep Trophy matches to prove his fitness? Or does he believe that turning out for an ad shoot is a better way of proving one's fitness? And why Nehra alone?

Far more shocking is Yuvraj Singh's case. Here is a player who opts out of a Duleep match on the pretext that his shoulder is injured. A couple of days later he turns out for an ad shoot in Mumbai, and a couple of days later he is selected in the Indian team. Though Yuvraj's cynical indifference to domestic cricket was raised in the meeting, there is an urgent need to address this issue in its entirety and if need be, the player -- in fact all those who may have skipped Duleep for a few dollars more -- should be penalised.

India has a very professional physio in Andrew Leipus and a trainer in Gregory King to guide the players. Why these two can't put their foot down when it comes to players hiding injuries or pretending to be injured, is something that needs to be asked. It is time a few questions are raised and in the interest of Indian cricket, it is time they are answered as well.

PS: What is the bowling coach episode all about? First Bruce Reid in Australia, then all the talk about Javagal Srinath's imminent appointment and finally back to Kapil Dev. For three day's work out with the team in Kolkata, Kapil gets another opportunity to mouth his favourite lines: all for the sake of a contract, oh sorry, the country. It may be a different matter that the pacers, who probably don't need to be told the basics of a bowling action, need the help of a professional who can help them in staying fit for longer periods.

First Published: Mar 03, 2004 01:09 IST