After a long break, (yes, considering the amount of cricket played these days, one month is a long break) we are rolling back to Virat Kohli in action. This is such a huge relief for the IPL fans, and essentially to the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who have missed the energy and impact of their captain.
This year’s IPL has seen many big Indian names missing from action due to injuries – all scars of the long hard-fought season, where India played 17 Test Matches, 8 One Day Internationals and 3 T20 Internationals.
Probably one of the hardest cricket seasons one can imagine, it stretched players’ tenacity and fitness to the limit. No surprise then that the casualties of this season are either resting or recovering from injuries.
Ten matches into the season and apart from Virat, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have also been missing from action. All of them were advised rest and recharge, keeping in mind the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy – a major tournament.
R Ashwin and Murali Vijay have pulled out of the IPL, and its highly unlikely that Lokesh Rahul will be fit for the season either.
Injuries were one of the biggest headlines in Indian cricket this year. On the field, the Indian team played hard-fought cricket and off the field, physio and masseurs were doing their best to keep the bruised bodies fit and battle-ready.
Indian team physio Patrick Farhat, and his staff of two masseurs attached with the team, were working overtime deal with the niggles and recovery of the players.
Mohammed Shami, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya and Lokesh Rahul, all of them sustained minor and major injuries, and kept the medical staff anxious and on their toes.
To put it categorically, there are two kind of injuries in the game of cricket.
1. Workload Injuries
Workload injuries are a result of the load the body has been taking over a period to train and perform the duties at the highest level.
Sometimes players and management have to take that tough call of risking these injuries to ensure the best result on the ground. To exemplify, Shami’s knee will always be one of those injuries. With an injured knee, he bowled his heart out in the World Cup 2015, and now he has to plan his workload meticulously to maximise his potential.
Not many people know that before every game, Shami had to go through the painful process of getting fluid removed from his knee through needles. He used to cry in pain and the dressing room has been witness to many such incidents.
Ashish Nehra strapped his dodgy ankle to bowl one of the finest spells in World Cup against England in Durban in 2003. People remember Nehra's six wickets, and he remembers the utter disgust of pain and agony while getting his ankle taped and then having to remove that tape.
In 2004, Harbhajan Singh’s spinning finger was operated on, and according to him, that was the toughest phase of his career. On the face of it, it was just a finger injury, but for Bhajji, his entire life was dependent on it. It was the spinning finger of his right hand, and if anything had gone wrong, his cricket would have been a dream ended too soon.
2. Impact Injury
The other kind is impact injury, or an injury that’s sustained during the action, or while preparing for the battle.
This season, Hardik Pandya cracked his shoulder, and Rahane sustained a mighty blow to his finger during the practice sessions. Not much could be done about issues like this. If you want to perform at the highest level, you need to train with the same intensity and purpose. Thus, these kinds of injuries are bound to occur and shouldn’t be clubbed with the fitness levels of the team.
In both the cases, proper recovery is paramount.
Rohit Sharma just made a comeback to cricket after a prolonged injury, which needed a surgery and long rehabilitation program. He was injured during the last ODI against New Zealand at Vizag, just before Diwali in 2016. And then the long hard come back journey began.
From surgery to crutches to small steps to jogging to light run to loads of strength and training workout in the gym to taking baby steps in the nets, finally leading to the intense cricket training. This is a long hard process, and the experts at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore monitor every step. Rohit has gone through it all for his gradual comeback into cricket.
These times are extremely frustrating and painful for the player involved. Uncertainties of future in the game are looming over their head and the irritation of missing the action is obvious.
On top of that, one is bound to feel insecure about someone else taking their place. While the inner calling is to get back as soon as possible, the sane advice is not to rush back into the game and risk your career. Players are torn between these two emotions and yet have to remain patient.
The harsh reality, however, is that comebacks are rarely supported by patience from the other side, the side of fans and experts. They feel a player should start from where he left off.
On the other hand, the subconscious mind of the player is still apprehensive about the injury and circumspect towards every movement on the field. It takes some amount of time for the muscle memory to start reacting in a way it used to in these settings.
No matter how you train and how well you prepare, stepping into the highest level of sports is always a nervy affair. And one needs to be easy-going with the players who have just made comeback from an injury.
Everyone goes through the same process and it doesn’t matter if you are Rohit or a 16-year-old-boy making a comeback after a break. That’s why they say – comebacks are harder than debuts.
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