Nitin Patel: 'I've seen international players breaking down'

Patel was team India's physio from 2007 to 2015 and now does the job with Mumbai Indians.

Former Indian physio Nitin Patel was a topper in the five-year Sports Medicine and Exercise degree in Nottingham, England.   -  S. Dinakar

The lean and tall man has a scholarly look. He also brings with him a sense of calmness, a much needed commodity when you have to cope with extreme emotional responses in the physio’s table.

For former Indian physio Nitin Patel, handling such scenarios comes with the territory. After all, he was with the Indian team from 2007 to 2015 and now does the job with Mumbai Indians.

“I have seen international players breaking down when they get to know that they will be out of the game for a period. The stakes are high and many cry in anguish and it is then that you have to instil belief in them,” said Nitin to Sportstar at the IIT-K.S. Narayanan Centre of Excellence here on Wednesday.  

Look through his spectacles and you can see an inherent toughness in this otherwise soft-spoken man who was a topper in the five-year Sports Medicine and Exercise degree in Nottingham, England.  

The course included sports psychology as well and Nitin comprehended the mind and its various hues. “You have to put your emotions on the side when you deal with an injured cricketer, be honest with him and tell him what is best for him. Trust is very important.”

Nitin remembered the first time he entered the Indian dressing room. “There was Sachin, Rahul, Kumble, Sourav, Laxman and Sehwag. I must concede that I was in awe of them at first.”

It was Tendulkar who put Nitin at ease. “Sachin knew I was a little nervous. I used to spend a lot of time in his room, till 12 p.m. or one a.m. We used to talk on many things, not cricket but life in general. Gradually I felt at home.”

Recalling some of the memorable characters from the team, Nitin said, “Sehwag’s one-liners would have everyone in splits and Ganguly spoke his mind.”

Coming to the modern generation, Nitin noted, “Kohli is very good at mimicking others. He can mimic everyone, the way they talk, their body language.”

Nitin said, “M.S. Dhoni was quieter. But when you go to him with a problem, you know he will back you.”

There were many challenging moments during Nitin’s tenure. “There was a Test against Australia at Mohali where Laxman won a close match for us. All the eleven Indian players had injuries that were more than just niggles and I had to keep shuffling players from the physio’s table to the ground.”

Talking about injuries, Nitin said, “Any muscular skeletal problem will have a bio-mechanical component to it. If you correct that your recovery will be much faster.”

A physio’s room, Nitin said interestingly, was also a meeting place for cricketers. “Many of the players come just for a casual chat if they are a little bored.”

Nitin was relishing his stint with Mumbai Indians which he called a very professional and result–oriented franchise.

Now settled in Chennai, Nitin is spending more time with his wife and two children, eight and 13 years old. He also attends to players who come to him for treatment and help.

Even as he strikes a balance between his professional and family life, the erudite Nitin is making a difference to several cricketers’ careers.

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