Kingston, Jamaica, June 14: Another overseas Test series is around the corner and two of India's premier pacemen have called in sick - Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth. Zak sustained an ankle sprain while Sree is down with an elbow injury. Such recurring ailments to our promising stock of speedsters invite the question - why do India's pacemen get injured so often?
The most obvious answer is that the men in question play too much cricket in a calender year. For a fast-bowler to sustain a career in the most physically-demanding aspect of the game and on a relentless schedule, would be minor miracle. In fact, Zaheer could be given a pat on the back for staying on the scene for over a decade as India's most-prized strike bowler.
But on many occasions during that period, he's had to stay on the sidelines with injury while vastly less-experienced rookies and the like replace him. One could argue that Zak is also getting on in years and lapses in fitness are inevitable. But when even his support in the field, i.e. the young and spritely Sreesanth, has to sit out with physical discomfort, the absentia results in the formation of a very erratic Indian attack.
For instance, when Zak had to miss the first Test against South Africa in Dec last year, the Indian pace department was rendered toothless and seemed lost at sea with no one to lead them or anchor them in. Thus, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma and new-comer Jaidev Unadkat engaged in a ghastly and mostly barren display of pace bowling.
Rewind to 1996-97, when India was touring the Rainbow Nation: a certain Javagal Srinath was used like a workhorse by virtue of the fact that he was India's quickest pace bowler in the squad. The end result: Srinath sustained an almighty shoulder strain which kept him out of the game for several months afterward. Again, adequate support was not around to keep up the pressure mounted on a very formidable Proteas' side.
Furthermore, to remain an effective fast bowler virtually immune to injury, he must keep up a training regimen even in his free time. India is gifted with the talent, but not the commitment to keep working hard on one's body so that it is able to endure the backbreaking necessities of a Test match.
One of India's most athletic cricketers Kapil Dev, would not stay idle in the off -season. He would literally run marathons to keep his various muscle groups in shape. Kapil followed this regimen religiously to guard against strains and pains. Are India's present speedsters ready to take a leaf out of the World Champion skipper's book? Can they go the distance?