For that, India’s current tour of England can easily be considered as a religious journey, actually a crusade, to say the least.
But, in the crusade, among all the virtues (vices included) of the said religion, it seems INJURY holds the key where on every other day a crusader i.e. a cricketer is complaining of an injury and sacrificing his place in the team, not life, for his nation.
However, before the crusade begun in England almost all the crusaders were found fit and fine. In fact, all of them selected passed the fitness test right under the nose of concerned authorities who are not only paid in heft by the BCCI but also carry mile long testimonials in their favour.
The crusade took off at Lords. On the first day itself, Zaheer Khan nominated himself for a place in the injury list with slight niggles inside his right hamstring. He went off the field immediately holding an ambition to get himself fit sooner than later under the surveillance and guidance of the professional and internationally acclaimed physical trainer and fitness coach touring with the Indian team.
The first test came to an end. Zaheen Khan wasn’t traced on the field with the ball in hand, excepting with the bat to occupy the crease for a short while limping around having a runner beside.
It was heard that Zaheer would stage in the second test at Trent Bridge. The play started and ended with a humiliating defeat for India. No sign of Zaheer was there, and the fitness report suggested he would be fit for the third test at Edgbaston.
In the meantime, Yuvaraj could play in the second test, quite by a stroke of luck, in place of Gambhir who got himself hurt very badly while fielding in the first test at Lords.
Amid these happenings, Harbhajan experienced a strange injury close to his abdomen that even his other team members, as well as the captain Dhoni weren’t sure of. In fact, this injury occurred to Bhajji all of a sudden complementing his poor form with the ball in England.
Thereafter, a fitness report was issued stating Yuvi has fractured index finger and Bhajji has abdominal muscle strain thus were left out of the squad for the remaining two tests and for the T20 and ODIs.
In between, Zaheer bothered to bowl only three overs in the practice match against Northamptonshire; gave his fitness test and found himself fit enough to play in the T20 and ODIs but ruled himself out for the third test.
Then, in a little over 24 hours we came to know Zaheer has got recurrent injury in his right hamstring and a right ankle impingement which’s sending him for a minimum of 14-16 weeks' rest and recuperation.
Now the question is, apart from Yuvi’s index finger fracture, exactly what happened to Harbhajan and Zaheer?
Has Harbhajan’s abdominal muscle strain stemmed from his abysmal performance as a bowler? Or has Zaheer been fit enough to play at all for the series in England?
In case a benefit of doubt is given to Harbhajan, no way it can be given to Zaheer and his fitness. Because whoever has played any sports can understand just a hamstring pull can never send a fit bowler out of action for 14-16 weeks. It’s just impossible!
More so, when the injured bowler got back to pavilion immediately without even bowling a single delivery after the injury. So adding stress to strain was out of question in that case, hence no chance of an injury aggravation.
That means somewhere down the line, there was a major compromise made in the system that took the fitness test of the players, precisely of the senior players. And it was done with a hope that those players would matter the most, when chips were down in the series.
Frankly, this is neither in line with the spirit of the game nor in keeping with any professionalism. It’s sheer cheating, firstly on self and gradually on everyone around. It’s bowing down to the greed of earning some quick bucks in the guise of need to playing and winning for the nation.
And when a sportsman does it; the system allows it; the administrators benefit from it, the sport can never be a religion or not even a riot.
Then it remains just as a rant, where Cricket becomes only the call of a few crickets but cricketers. And that’s all.