They deserve the break

FINALLY, after a seemingly unending sequence of matches and series, the Indian cricketers have got a break. Actually, even a little respite is a rarity these days.

BY K. SRIKKANTH

FINALLY, after a seemingly unending sequence of matches and series, the Indian cricketers have got a break. Actually, even a little respite is a rarity these days.

Sachin Tendulkar with his wife Anjali. The break has come as a blessing for Tendulkar, who finally has time to attend to his injured finger. It does great credit to this legendary cricketer that he dazzled in the World Cup, despite being under considerable pain. — Pic. PTI-

The players do deserve it. After all, they too are human beings, not machines; they too need to spend time with their families.

There are times when we, the commentators, tend to be harsh on them, forgetting for a moment, the sheer stress and strain on these cricketers, considering the number of games they have to play.

Take for instance someone like the Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly. This is a period when he can spend valuable time with his child. The demands and the pressures of captaining India can be huge, and family can only be a soothing influence during the off-season.

The break has come as a blessing for Sachin Tendulkar, who finally has time to attend to his injured finger. It does great credit to this legendary cricketer that he dazzled in the World Cup, despite being under considerable pain.

But then, what can I say about the commitment of this cricketer. He really sets an example to others. I, like countless others, hope and pray that he makes a complete recovery. Every effort should be made to ensure that the injury does not cut into his cricketing life.

The modern day schedules can often be cruel on the players and the body does take a battering. This can be seen in a spate of injuries among international cricketers.

I am sure that our cricketers will be following a fitness regimen given to them by fitness trainer Adrian le Roux, and physio Andrew Leipus during the off-season. They have to keep themselves in shape for the future battles.

We also have a scenario now, where several Indian cricketers will be figuring in the English county competition. While they might be escaping the Indian summer, the move might prove counter-productive, given that another long, gruelling season awaits them when they return.

Take the case of off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. He has a long-standing finger injury and lengthy spells in the county circuit will hardly give him enough time to recover.

I am not sure whether county cricket is advisable to bowlers, especially if they are an integral part of the Indian attack. We already have had instances of Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble requiring shoulder surgeries soon after their county stint.

The thing about niggling injuries is that if they are not treated on time, they could develop into a bigger menace, threatening the careers of the cricketers concerned.

For Virender Sehwag, Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh, the county experience might prove a useful learning experience. Another factor in their favour is that they are all bachelors and mentally they would be that much more relaxed.

Rahul Dravid, for long the most eligible bachelor boy, has now lost that status. For the Indian vice-captain the break in cricket has come as a boon. He could finally schedule his marriage in the period.

Indeed, things have come to a stage where even family functions of the cricketers can only be held in these little gaps during the cricketing year. Cricket looms large over their life and understandably so, since it gives them so much.

In my time, I hardly played a game during the off-season and I would relax myself mentally, reading a book, or listening to music, staying at home and cooling off.

I would avoid playing in matches during that period unless it was for some charitable cause and this enabled me to recover mentally.

More than the physical aspect, cricket can make big demands mentally on a player. Burn-outs owing to mental fatigue are not uncommon in cricket. And a player has to be careful.

Off-season also presents an opportunity for cricketers to work on chinks that must have crept into their games. When the season is on the players hardly get any time to have a closer look at themselves and identify where they might be going wrong.

Even if the fault is spotted, there might hardly be any time for corrective measures, with one match following the other in a jiffy. During this period, some players might even be reluctant to bring about any changes in their technique.

I remember that a tendency to commit myself on to the front foot had a negative influence on my batting and it was this aspect of my cricket that I worked on after the '83 season.

I put that drawback behind me and it was this improvement that enabled me to make a successful comeback to the Test side in '84. I realised that I was playing much better too.

Different players have different ways to keep themselves fit during this period. I remember Sunil Gavaskar used to rely on shuttle badminton for the purpose.

Mohinder Amarnath, a fitness fanatic, would spend long hours trying to retain his body in perfect condition. Kapil Dev would run and jog for long stretches. I used to play a bit of tennis.

Kapil, of course, was one of the fittest cricketers, naturally, that I have ever come across. This was God's gift to him.

For a man who sent down over after over on placid tracks, under the hot sun, taking an enormous burden upon himself, Kapil was remarkably injury free. Considering that he was also needed to bat for India, often in crisis situations, this was a wonderful achievement.

Except for a brief phase, when he had to get his knee operated, he kept himself and India going and Kapil's fitness was the cornerstone of his super success as an all-rounder. A lesser man would have wilted under the load Kapil shouldered manfully.

These days the cricketers are lucky that they have a physio and a fitness trainer to look after their physical demands. On the other hand, the players have daunting itineraries to grapple with.

Now, they can finally take some time off, recharge their batteries and prepare themselves mentally and physically for the challenges ahead.