There needs to be balance

Published : Sep 08, 2001 00:00 IST

THOUGH India lost the first Test ignominiously to Sri Lanka, the one heartening feature in that game was the courage shown by Javagal Srinath in bowling with an injured hand. Some may well scoff saying that it was his left hand that was broken and not his bowling hand, but these are the people who know nothing about bowling. For a bowler, especially a fast bowler, the other hand is very important from the point of accuracy and getting the length he wants. If that arm comes down quicker the ball will go one way, if it comes down slower it will go differently and in Srinath's case even with pain-killing injections the left arm coming down for the follow-through must have been a problem.

By bowling with an injured hand, Javagal Srinath displayed such commitment which the juniors are bound to follow.

Yet he bowled with that and went on to capture five wickets and that was a real gutsy performance. When one is playing for the country, especially in a hard ball game like cricket, one has to be prepared for injuries and pain, and to try and overcome the pain is the greatest test of one's commitment. Srinath came through that with flying colours and one hopes that he will recover quickly and his example of commitment to the team is emulated by all. Admittedly, the threshold of pain will differ from player to player and so one can't generalise, but when seniors like Srinath show such commitment then the juniors are bound to follow.

Now that Srinath has returned home, the intriguing question is whether the plaster on his hand will be set by an Indian doctor or whether he will go overseas to get the plaster set.

The Indian Cricket Board had set up a panel of doctors last year, though how two or three doctors based in Mumbai can look at the injuries sustained by players not residing in Mumbai is something only the Board can explain. Ideally, there should be a panel of three doctors in each Test playing centre to whom the player can go to for advice and treatment. The problem is, do the Indian players want to be treated by Indian doctors?

V. V. S. Laxman has gone to Australia to get arthroscopy done on his knee, Murali Karthik also went to Australia to get his injury treated. Srinath and Anil Kumble went to South Africa for surgery to their bowling shoulders and now Sachin Tendulkar has gone to South Africa to get shoes designed that will help him with the toe injury he has suffered. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong in going to these doctors for treatment if the same treatment and medication is not available in India, but if it is, then should they not take the treatment at home? Perhaps India does not have a specialist in shoulder surgery like Mark Ferguson in South Africa, but surely arthroscopic knee surgeries (if that is the correct medical term) are done by thousands by Indian doctors as also spinal surgeries. The Board, therefore, must decide through its panel of doctors whether a player needs to go overseas for surgery and treatment of his injury. If the panel says the treatment is available in India then the player has to either take the treatment here or if he wants to go overseas, go at his own expense. Why have a panel of doctors if every player decides on his own to go overseas for treatment and that too at the Board's expense? The Board is a rich body and it should do all it can to ensure that the best treatment is given to the players injured while on duty for the country and if it means sending the players overseas so be it, but only if the panel of the Board doctors say that the treatment is not available in India.

The Board should also have an insurance scheme for first class and junior players, for injuries occur in all classes of cricket and the Board should not just look after international players. The Board would be much appreciated if it also has an insurance scheme for former players who are facing a financial crunch and are unable to meet medical expenses. Age does not wait for anyone and many a former great player has struggled to get treatment because of shortage of finance. It is these players that the Board should be going all out to help than the stars of today who are capable of meeting their own expenses.

There have been innumerable instances and that too in the recent past where former players have been denied even a sum of Rs. 50,000/- for medical treatment while three times that amount has been spent on the air ticket of a current player who could have had the treatment in India. And mind you, we are not taking the charges for boarding, lodging and the surgeon's fees here. All that is extra. Surely some sort of balance is required from the Board in dealing with former players' difficulties. There are plenty of them, players who were huge during their playing days when sadly there was no money in the game, who are today not able to meet medical expenses which may be only a few thousand rupees. Is the Board only for current players? Let us hope the AGM this year will show it is for all cricketers, old and upcoming and not just for the fat cats.

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