IPL injuries: Keep a check on the workload

Kevin Pietersen, Steve Smith, Faf du Plessis, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Adam Milne, Lendl Simmons, John Hastings... The list of injured players this IPL keeps growing.We spoke to various fitness experts to get an idea about the possible reasons behind this worrying trait.

Rising Pune Supergiants' Kevin Pietersen is helped out of the pitch after getting injured in the match against Royal Challengers in Pune. The former English star just lasted for four games this season.   -  Vivek Bendre

The Aussie duo of Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith failed to provide much service to their IPL team Pune Supergiants.   -  AP

The long list of injured players has definitely taken some gloss off the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The injuries have dented the prospects of a new side like Rising Pune Supergiants, which lost four of its overseas recruits midway through the tournament.

Even though the schedule of the IPL has remained similar to that of the previous editions, the extremely-packed cricket calendar — the T20 World Cup preceded the IPL extravaganza — has taken its toll on the players.

Kevin Pietersen, Steve Smith, Faf du Plessis, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Adam Milne, Lendl Simmons and John Hastings have been ruled out after being injured during the tournament. Some others, such as Yuvraj Singh, Kane Williamson, JP Duminy, Aaron Finch and Sunil Narine, have missed a few matches, while Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Starc, Joel Paris and Samuel Badree failed to even get a game. Sportstar spoke to various fitness experts to get an idea about the possible reasons behind this worrying trait.

“I cannot say there is anything different about the schedule. A lot of what happened in the IPL is related to what happened before the IPL. Before this, the guys had domestic seasons, international tours, the World Cup. How much these guys have been bowling, how much they have been training, how much they rest, how much time they had to recover (are factors). It is a challenge to maintain their fitness levels with their job profile this season. When we get the players from day one there is a broad range of loads and fatigues because the players have been playing a lot of cricket,” says former India and current Kolkata Knight Riders physio Andrew Leipus.

Fitness trainer Ranadeep Moitra, who worked with the Indian cricket team, feels the lack of break is contributing to player injuries. “They just played the World Cup and this (IPL) is an extension of the World Cup. You are playing cricket for four months. If it had happened in football, all the players would have got injured.

“They are playing too much and there are no demarcated off season (to focus only on fitness). So everything adds up... In this format, the fast bowlers are bound to get injured. There are no great fast bowlers like Dennis Lilliee, Geoff Thomson or Imran Khan any more. Other than Jimmy Anderson there is no other bowler up there.”

According to Kings XI Punjab strength and conditioning coach Nishant Thakur, injuries might have happened due to the workload. “Most of the international cricketers are playing in the IPL, so you cannot say that it is because of low level of fitness. It maybe due to the workload... The humid weather and travel may also be contributing to this.”

Even as Leipus did not rule out the possibility of the warmer summer in India contributing to the injuries, he says the overall workload was a crucial factor. “Talk about players getting tired, fatigue, breaking down — all comes down to their workloads.”

The Australian says there is a need to study the impact of workload in T20 cricket. “For example, the bowlers bowl four overs in a match and then get some days off and then they get four overs again. There might be a situation when their workload is on the lower side. We actually do not know. Maybe in the years to come we will have some research to know what the players should be doing, what they should not be doing — whether they are bowling too little or they are bowling too much.”

Commenting on the injuries of the Australian players, Leipus says, “IPL has a policy that if a player is going to be out for the remainder of the tour then there is no point hanging on to him. They should be sent back to their respective boards to get treatment. I don’t know whether Cricket Australia has told its players what to do. It is more a case of circumstances.

“Because IPL is such a condensed tournament that a hamstring injury might take you three weeks (to recover) and that’s half of the tournament gone. All the physios associated with the IPL teams are in touch with the medical staff of say, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. We are in touch with everyone and it is a unique circle of professionals that if we think a player needs to go back home, we have to send him back.”

But there are exceptions like Virat Kohli, who has been playing non-stop cricket and performing at the top level over a long period of time. “Virat has his own personal trainer. He has fantastic work ethics. He is like (world number one tennis player Novak) Djokovic, whose fitness level is way above the others,” Moitra says.

Leipus says it is a way of life for Kohli. “Research tells us that if you are consistently playing at a medium to high level then your training level is high. The problem comes when you have breaks. When the guys are consistently performing, they are generally healthy. Consistency is the key. You got to avoid that sudden increase in your workload.”

The teams, which expect their players to give their best, must take note of the worrying trend and learn to utilise the available resources and derive the best out of the players. With the IPL entering its last fortnight, the franchises and the cricketers need to adopt a more careful approach. After all, injuries to players do not help anyone!

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