CHENNAI: Apart from reducing the average pace of MS Dhoni’s fast bowling unit in Australia, Mohammed Shami’s injury is the latest in a recurring theme of Indian quicks breaking down. Seldom in the recent past has the team been able to field its full pace battery as injuries invariably kept out one or more of them.
From Ishant Sharma, who has perhaps somewhat unfortunately endured more forced breaks than highs in his eight-year career, to Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron — the list covers almost all bowlers who have of late done national duty. Mohit Sharma too has had be to left out despite his good show Down Under last year.
Fast bowlers as a race are injury prone doesn’t necessarily justify the situation. Same players getting injured at regular intervals puts a question mark before the efficiency of the system expected to take care of these. The National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru has two full time physios, including Andrew Leipus, with three strength and conditioning coaches appointed primarily to look after rehabilitation and recovery.
“Maybe there’s room for betterment, but what the BCCI offers at NCA is among the best in the cricket world. Many have benefited and continue to get help from our staff and facilities over there. I’m not aware of inadequacies in the system that might lead to a persistent problem related to fitness.
“If injuries are still happening, it might have something to do with the load players take these days,” an NCA official told Express.
A knee injury forced Shami out after the World Cup. Following prolonged rehabilitation at NCA, he played two matches in the national one-day meet in December and boarded the flight to Australia after two more appearances in the T20 meet. Although instances of players complaining of poor facilities or improper treatment are not common, the hamstring complaint ruling Shami out of Australia can question the monitoring system at NCA.
Denying this, a physical trainer associated with NCA felt players are often responsible for repeated breakdowns. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said, “A crucial part of recovery is routines players have to maintain when on their own. It’s the lack of planning on their part that results in frequent injuries. The calendar has become congested, but awareness on part of players hasn’t changed accordingly. We can guide. It’s up to them to follow.”
Having seen Shami from close quarters, he added that the Uttar Pradesh bowler who represents Bengal is likely to remain vulnerable.
“He had no history of training when he started first-class cricket, where he managed with his good body co-ordination. As the demands increased with non-stop cricket, he has been caught wanting. Work has been done on the rotation, control, explosion fronts, but it seems he has never been part of any fitness process. So he’ll remain prone to these things.”
With high-intensity and low-rest events like World T20 and IPL coming up before a host of Test matches in the second half of the year, bowlers have no respite. How their load is managed might determine how many of them are available when required. Having worked with the likes of Umesh and Varun as coach, former India quick Subroto Banerjee felt handling with care is the need of the hour.
“So much of cricket has reduced the space for recovery. So fast bowlers need to be preserved or rotated if need be. Don’t think there’s a problem with the system. It’s a question of judicious and restricted use of resources. The valuable ones don’t have to play everything. Bowlers too must understand their body, what they have to do and work accordingly,” said the personal coach of Sachin Tendulkar’ son Arjun.