CLOSE-IN: It is time for Indian cricketers to get physically tough

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The Indian cricket team is once again on a roll in the T20 format. The disappointing show at the Asia Cup ’22 is a thing of the past. India won the three-match series against Australia and are already ahead with a win against South Africa.

The recent successful form of the Indian side should put them in fine fettle, however, the sword of Damocles seems to hang over them.

This is because of the fitness concerns of several of their players already selected for the T20 World Cup being held next month. The South Africa series is the last one before the Indian team embarks Down Under and the side seems uncertain about the playing combination at present.

The question that comes to one’s mind is, are the Indian cricketers actually a fit lot or those who seem to break down every time they are subjected to a heavy load? One does marvel as to how slim and agile the players look compared to the cricketers of the past. However, the frequent injuries that one sees, makes one wonder as to whether they are actually fit or feeble.

Excessive cricket is the ready answer when one questions this issue, which takes one back as to whether cricketers of the past played far less. One does agree that International and first class cricket matches have increased enormously, but to say that cricket was not played round the year earlier, is untrue.

The cricketers of the past when not playing for the country or their State Associations were playing Club and Corporate tournaments all over India on grounds that were uneven, barren and at most times without any decent side-screen or facilities. Most of the cricket was played on matting wickets and uncovered turf wickets.

Apart from the lack of facilities on the cricket ground, cricketers then played with badly crafted cricket boots, cricket equipment and batted with tennis shoes. The buckles of the cricket pads made its way into ones skin and apart from plasters around ones bat, ones legs were also full of the it. One felt sorry for the pace bowlers as they ran in on uneven run-up surfaces with their cricket boot spikes making a mark through their soles at the end of the day.

In such adverse conditions, cricketers played making runs aplenty and bowlers bowled their hearts out day after day. When not playing matches, the cricket net sessions were a must to attend and no rest due to excessive cricket was an excuse. Cricket coaches were strict disciplinarians at all levels of the game. They had one common mantra and that was “the more one bowls and bats, the better one gets”.

Cricketers then rarely broke down and one had to be forced to miss a match even if one was not entirely fit. Pain and exhaustion was a part and parcel of the game. Blows to the body by a cricket ball or small niggles and cramps were born without much ado by a cricketer, as that is what made him hard and tough.

The cricket ball is the same hard leather one as today’s. The ball smashed into ones skull and every unprotected part of the body, as protection equipment were few and far between. The mark of the red cherry was strewn over one’s body especially around the thigh. The dark blue marks, thereafter, were reminders of one’s battle out in the middle and one that a cricketer was proud of.

Cricketers of today have all the protective equipment that ensures them safety and a kit full of pads, gloves and bats that are light and well crafted that are far superior than the ones before.

The cricket grounds all over India have well laid wickets and outfields that are green and even.

This brings one to the present Indian side. They now have the best comfort as regards stay, food and travel. They have a team of support staff for every need of theirs and are being monitored to keep them fit and healthy. A slight exhaustion or mental strain a player is given the option to rest and recuperate. The International Indian cricketer is now treated and pampered to the hilt and their needs are taken care of without hesitation.

One, therefore, fails to see as to how so many of them seem to be getting injured every now and then. A 4 over spell in a T20 game would have been chicken feed for the likes of Kapil Dev, Karsan Ghavri, Ramakant Desai and many other pacers of the earlier era.

Taking the ball out of a bowlers hand when one was in full flow or resting one due to exhaustion or preventing one from getting a possible injury was not in the dictionary of a cricketer then.

One is therefore concerned that several pace bowlers who have played for India in the recent years seem to be spending more time at the National Cricket Academy recuperating from an injury, than in playing cricket for India.

The Indian squad going for the T20 World Cup to Australia has fitness issues that are very worrying. Batters Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Deepak Hooda have had or are recovering from injuries and India’s frontline bowlers Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Harshal Patel are also in the same fold.

One’s thoughts, therefore, naturally question whether cricketers of the past were tougher than the ones that are being churned out, presently.

The time has come for the present lot to get far tougher. Cricket after all is “A game for a real live man, keep fit little man, keep fit”. (IANS)



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