Vijay Shankar, who suffered a toe injury while batting in the nets, became the second Indian player after Shikhar Dhawan to be ruled out of World Cup 2019. He is the latest in a list of Indian cricketers who have been put out of action because of injuries.
Dhawan suffered a hairline fracture when he was hit on the left thumb while batting against Australia and was ruled out of the tournament. India's woes deepened when Bhuvneshwar Kumar suffered a left hamstring strain against Pakistan, which saw him miss three matches before being picked for Tuesday's game against Bangladesh. India then roped in Rishabh Pant in place of Dhawan and brought in Mayank Agarwal in place for Vijay.
Ramji Srinivasan, a former physical trainer with the Indian cricket team, said it is very difficult to prevent the kind of injuries the Indian players suffered in England. "It can happen to any sportsman. If it's muscle or tendon related, then it's a cause of concern, but getting hit by a ball in the nets is a common occurrence," he said.
"It looks like Vijay has a grade 2 complex fracture. I'm not aware of any previous injuries on his big toe. He has had knee and hamstring injuries in the past, but as far as I can recollect, nothing related to the toe," he added.
Team India's injury management came under the scanner last year when wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha was forced to miss the tour to Australia due to a shoulder injury. This was after a thumb injury, which he picked during IPL 2018, had ruled him out of the Test against Afghanistan.
The handling of injuries and more significantly, the communication regarding the same had raised questions. Srinivasan feels the support staff is not guilty of negligence in this instance. "What happened to Vijay can be termed as a freak injury," he noted.
"The team management is aware of what needs to be done to keep the players fresh and ready for a big tournament and I'm sure they had devised a methodology to ensure workload management of the World Cup-bound players," he added.
- Open communication -
John Gloster, who worked as a physio with the Indian team for four years — from 2005 to 2008 — concurs: "Two out of the three injuries so far in this World Cup to Indian players would come under the ‘unlucky’ category. Vijay Shankar being struck on the toe in the nets (by Jasprit Bumrah) and Shikhar being hit on the thumb by (Mitchell) Starc are injures that aren’t related to fitness or preparation," he said.
"With regard to Bhuvneshwar’s hamstring injury, there could be a number of related causes. I am led to believe that it occurred when he slipped on the crease area in delivery stride. Again, this could also fall under the unlucky category," he added.
Gloster, who worked with IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals, believes the players picked in the squad for the quadrennial event have been well monitored.
"The BCCI is very lucky to have someone as astute, and with cricket experience, as Patrick Farhat in their system. Because of this they have had a better understanding of how to adequately prepare and monitor players before big tournaments," he said.
"All (IPL) franchises that have Indian contracted players are requested to keep the board informed of any potential injury or fitness issues. This has been a process during previous IPLs.
"I have always been very open in the communication channels with Patrick on any related players from the RR squad. Given that we at the Royals were the only franchise using GPS data collection methods, I was able to relay very accurate summaries of player’s workloads," he added.
- Drastically different -
Gloster, who was with Team India when it triumphed in World T20 in South Africa, 2007, feels the handling of injuries in Indian cricket is "drastically different from 2007" on a number of fronts, particularly with respect to fitness and the attitude around it being a non-negotiable.
"When I first came to India, I felt that the key ingredient missing in Indian cricket as a whole was fitness and this was the main reason why consistency was never there. It is not until you combine the technical with fitness that you gets consistent success in sport," said Gloster.