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A lamb to the slaughter

The Indian board knew right from February 6, well before the tour of South Africa was over, that Javagal Srinath was carrying an injury, one bad enough to require a prolonged period of rest. Yet they chose to pick him for the tour of the Caribbean. Jagmohan Dalmiya's contention that nobody knew the extent of the injury before the team was chosen seems to be, well, patently incorrect.

According to a report in the Indian Express, an assessment by Dr Mark Ferguson, the South African doctor whom Srinath went to consult after pulling out of the tour of the Caribean, on the date mentioned earlier, reads thus: (after describing the injury) "It is therefore advisable that he embarks on a strenuous programme to strengthen his humeral head and scapular stabilisers... he should avoid long uninterrupted periods of bowling during his rehabilitation... he must also be mindful of throwing a cricket ball as this may cause further instability. If he fails to respond to a conservative programme, it is advised that he should undergo an arthroscopy and labral repair. This would, however, necessitate him being unable to bowl for at least three months."

This makes it abundantly clear that Srinath was in need of immediate attention. The assessment was made available to Dr Ali Irani, the phsyiotherapist who travels with the team, according to this paper. Irani says he informed the board of Srinath's injury, but the paper says that board officials denied this. Whom does one believe -- Dr Irani or the board?

The board's explanation, after Srinath was forced to leave the team in the West Indies, did not indicate when Dr Ferguson had first attended to the fast bowler. Given the fact that this report was sent to the Indian team doctor on February 6, it seems likely that the South African specialist had a chance to examine Srinath on February 4 or 5 when the Indian team arrived in Johannesburg ahead of their match against Zimbabwe in Pretoria on February 7.

After the report from Dr Ferguson, Srinath played three more one-day games and bowled 27.1 overs. Neither Irani nor Tendulkar realised the risk they were running by making him bowl. A copy of this assessment had been sent to the board, the Express claims, but they failed to act even after Srinath reached India. The board insisted that Laxman pass a fitness test before he was cleared for the West Indies; nothing was done for Srinath.

Srinath will not be able to return to the West Indies. (In fact, suddenly coach Madan Lal and captain Tendulkar have discovered that they do not, in fact, need another fast bowler!) Srinath is also likely to miss the Independence Cup in May -- a one-day affair to mark the 50th year of India's independence. After that India have commitments in Toronto and Singapore before the Asia Cup and a series against Sri Lanka. The way the team has been touring over the past year it was only reasonable to expect that players would suffer phsyically. Yet to refuse to tend to them when they were injured is cruel. In Srinath's case, it must be remembered that we are talking of one who has bowled his heart out for the country.

The Indian team has gone hither and thither reportedly to ensure that all the associate members visited will vote for Dalmiya when the ICC meets in June and he bids for the post of ICC chief again. It is the same man who had the power to call for prompt treatment for Srinath and ensure that India's best strike bowler for a long time be allowed to recover in order that he could serve his country. It appears that this was far from the board secretary's mind. What was occupying his attention is anybody's guess.

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