Injury management is the biggest concern in Indian sports. Our sportspersons, including cash-rich players representing the richest board in the cricketing world, are made to go through primitive medical processes.
Either we don't have sophisticated equipment for training or trained personnel to take care of the fitness of sportspersons. One only hopes that in the enthusiasm to introduce the sports bill, this important aspect of high performance centre is not ignored.
One thing that will strengthen the hands of the government in introducing the RTI for the BCCI is the way the BCCI handles the fitness of the players.
The Zaheer case
In Zaheer Khan's case, the media was made to believe that he was fit and ready to hurl balls at great speed. It may have seemed a good mind game, but when he broke down, knowledgeable physiotherapists unanimously said he wouldn't be fit for another six months!
Strangely, after he broke down, the manager was prompt in issuing a press release stating that Zaheer would be bowling in the second innings. Not only was he not fit enough to bowl but he couldn't even walk without a limp.
Then, it was the case of Virender Sehwag. For months he hadn't played a match, and the board sent him to join the team in order to pacify angry cricket lovers.
Is cricket such an easy game that one can get into a Test without playing a match? Again, the people were misled.
One after another, players were joining the injured list, and those who weren't fully fit were sent as replacements. Was R.P. Singh fit? Did he undergo the fitness test at the NCA as per the norm? No.
There are lessons to be learnt from this England tour. The more the BCCI tries to hide players' fitness from the cricket-loving public, the more are the chances the government will force the BCCI to come under the RTI. Let the BCCI not forget cricket is more than a game in this country.
There are also solutions. It may not be known to many that the BCCI spends around Rs.17 crore on a pension scheme, or that the BCCI contributed Rs.50 crore to the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF), and for doing it, lost tax exemption when the Central Board Of Direct Taxes acted.
Enquiry panel needed
But why the Indian team is crumbling is something the BCCI should investigate through an enquiry committee like Cricket Australia did.
Cricket operations have to be transparent as far as fitness is concerned. Just before the 1992 World Cup, Naren Tamhane's selection committee invited the media in Mumbai at the CCI while conducting the fitness test of Ravi Shastri who had suffered a knee injury.
Why can't the BCCI conduct fitness tests openly? Let's not worry about the Sports Bill. What needs to be done has to be done. India has skill. If fitness is of international level, reputation and prestige are assured.