Board needs to do more to help injured pacers


Quite often, the lament at home is how India has never been able to produce fast bowlers like Pakistan. As the Board of Control for Cricket in India selection committee meets today in Mumbai to pick the team for the Test series against Australia, the huge worry will be over the medium- fast bowlers.

The list of injured pacers is long and, with cricket now a sport played round the year, it is indeed worrying how Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel are all battling injuries.

Aaron’s case is the one which is most worrying as he has stayed away from action for over a year. Yet, in this period, his visits to the National Cricket Academy ( NCA) in Bangalore have not been very fruitful vis- a- vis getting back to fitness.

In the good old days, when Kapil Dev was the epitome of fitness as a mediumfast bowling all- rounder, it appeared he would never miss a match. However, the present generation of medium pacers is battling more injuries, which are not necessarily caused by more cricket.

The other day Dennis Lillee, my favourite fast bowler, was in Chennai and talked about how the rotation policy in Australia is good. As one who had his back wired and still continued to succeed in Test cricket, Lillee proved how working on fitness and bowling in spells was the best thing.

For that matter, if Aussie cricket is taken as an example, from Bruce Reid onwards, they have not run fast bowlers to the ground but used them without the stress factor coming into play. Reid battled back injuries for years and the number of matches he played was far less than what he could have.

As if taking a cue from Reid’s case, the Aussie think- tank has ensured fast bowlers in the younger age group are nurtured well to ensure longevity in the sport.

Back home, the demand on a fast bowler’s body is increasing. With three formats of cricket played and the Indian Premier League also being a huge attraction, the medium pacers have to shoulder a big load.

The worry for the bowlers at home is not the load but the inability to get the injuries diagnosed properly. If someone like Aaron has been on the injury list for a year due to a bad back, it is clear he has not got the best medical attention.

Till date, nobody knows what the problem with his back is as he runs from pillar to post for help.

The inability to diagnose his back problem is indeed scary. As regards Yadav and Pathan, it is clear they need the best advice from the best doctors.

For the average cricket fan who enjoys the sight of bowlers charging in and hitting the deck, fast bowling would appear very simple.

But the stress and strain which the body undergoes cannot be understood till such time as a bowler breaks down.

Compared to countries like Australia, where importance is paid to the bowling action so that injuries can be avoided, we have no such plans in place.

For all its financial might, the BCCI has not invested in biomechanic experts and the related equipment which can pinpoint flaws in a bowler’s action. By this time, the BCCI should have set up a world- class medical centre where experts could have helped out the Indian fast bowlers.

Even now, when an Indian bowler gets injured, he wastes months before deciding whether to go to Australia, South Africa or England.

While the importance of having good physios and trainers with the national squad has increased, they are not the ones who can help in identifying what exactly is the injury to a bowler’s back or knee.

From whatever I have heard about the rehab in the NCA, it is more like physios at work and not any advanced medical treatment.

Had it been a super- speciality set- up like in Australia and South Africa, perhaps the Indian medium pacers would not have suffered so much.

It was interesting to read some of the old Indian medium pace bowlers say that hitting the gym is not essential and working on the ground is more important.

The demands of modern cricket are such that a gym routine is of huge importance to a cricketer.

Working out in the gym does not mean pumping iron. From stretching to conditioning and working on the body by various means, there is a lot to gain, be it a batsman or a bowler.

Take the case of one of India’s most gifted and superbly fit athletes – Leander Paes. I have seen how after each training session, he would spend almost an hour cooling down. It is thanks to this schedule that he has been able to prolong his career and continues to play top flight doubles at close to 40.

Looking ahead, the BCCI, which is now ready to spend on cricketers, would do well in setting up a good medical centre. Experts who can deal with injuries must be hired from abroad so that each time a cricketer gets injured, he doesn’t lose time in the repair process.

As for the selectors who will scratch their heads in Mumbai today over naming medium pacers, this is going to be a difficult assignment.

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