One would expect a team to be worrying about strategy a week before a series but India is stuck with rudimentary issues itself. The first ball has not even been bowled in the Sri Lanka series and Vinay Kumar has dropped out due to injury.
Only a week back, Varun Aaron also declared himself unfit. It is but obvious that our rehabilitation structure needs an experienced foreign physio like Andrew Leipus.
Of course there will be counter arguments that the Indian cricketers play too much cricket. But as always this argument is erroneous because Australia and England too have tight programmes. The difference is that both countries carry a team of physiotherapists. In a cramped schedule it's the job of a physio to get the players fit while the team management backs them. At no stage is a player given the option to declare his fitness.
Players call the shots
In India, players pronounce their fitness themselves. Selectors and coaches get to know about the fitness of players through newspaper interviews. Every second day, Yuvraj Singh says he is fit to play though he is yet to take guard in a proper match.
Early this year, Yuvraj had declared himself fit for the Australia tour. But when he played a fitness match at Bangalore, doctors advised him to go to the United States instead of Australia. He should realise that Indian cricket needs him for the next five years and not next five months.
He may be overenthusiastic to get back in the Indian team but the Indian season is so cramped that unless he plays a good number of first class matches, he stands the risk of going out of the game early.
Before the 1992 World Cup, the BCCI invited media to watch the fitness test of Ravi Shastri at the Brabourne stadium after he had undergone knee operation. The selection committee was also present. The decision makers were quite apprehensive about Shastri’s fitness but eventually he was declared fit. He went for the World Cup and continued to struggle. On return, he went to South Africa. He just couldn’t run and consequently he was out of the Indian team. A very fine career came to an abrupt end.
Indian players say that Indian physios and trainers are better than the foreigners. The reason for this bias is very simple. Foreigners are thorough professionals and leave no scope for compromise.
The famous trainer of the West Indies Dennis Waight enjoyed the full backing of captain Clive Lloyd who wanted a fit West Indies team. Senior members such as Joel Garner resented his fitness methods but when they saw Lloyd doing it, they had no option but to follow. That was the success mantra of West Indies team of the 70s.
Let's not play around with fitness issues. Indian team will be playing international matches virtually every week till March. Duncan Fletcher succeeded as England coach mainly because he didn’t let an injured player enter the dressing room. Here, he has to put up with players who set their fitness standards.
Players first, stars later
Any coach or captain is as good as his team. We have taken the first step by appointing an experienced Fletcher as coach. But compromises run deep in our system and we need to expunge it so Fletcher can perform.
It’s time the Indian cricketers were treated as players first and stars later. If we continue to let these stars do as they wish, the future of the Indian team will surely be dim.
Keywords: Sri Lanka tour