Melbourne: Cricketers and administrators associated with Australian cricket have expressed concern over the rising injury toll among the current crop of players. Seemingly every time you turn on the telly or pick up a newspaper, another Australian cricketer has gone down injured.
Teenage pace gun Patrick Cummins, Shane Watson and former one-day specialist Brett Lee are the latest on the injury list. Then, there are the likes of Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Dave Warner and even skipper Michael Clarke who have battled injuries in the past 12 months.
Queenslander Harris, who will need a new knee when he retires, concedes it is a bewildering time for Australian cricket with no obvious answer to the injury curse. "I was driving home the other day and I had a quiet moment to think . . . I did wonder why England’s fast bowlers like James Anderson haven’t been breaking down, yet we have had so many injury problems," Harris told The Sunday Mail.
Respected former Australian chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, now Queensland selection boss, is one who certainly believes young bowlers must have tough, hard cricket under their belts. "It is unfortunate that some fast bowlers haven’t had a full season of tough Shield cricket under their belts before playing Test cricket," news.com.au quoted Hohns, as saying. Hohns added: "That appears to be one of the problems to me." Harris, who has his own well-documented series of problems, believes injury and workload management will be the key issue leading into the Ashes. However he does not believe the wave of sports science is behind the injury crisis. "We do get prescribed limits of how many deliveries we can bowl in the nets at certain times," Harris revealed.
"But it is also up to the player. If I feel underdone and want to bowl another 40 deliveries in the nets, then I tell the staff. They might not like it, but there is no problem with me doing it. I do think sports science has done a lot for cricket and the amount of information we have at our fingertips is terrific.”
"I don’t know what we need to change to try to stop these injuries happening," he said. Harris advocates an injury think-tank but says medical and sports science staff frequently contact players by email and phone.
Former Test bowler Stuart Clark worries that rising pace stars such as Cummins are sent mixed messages. "We all have to be on one wavelength with Pat Cummins, because he’s a fine prospect," Clark said recently. "The poor kid is just confused. He needs one solid training program, probably set by Cricket Australia, and then run with it." Cricket Australia’s team performance manager Pat Howard told The Sunday Mail that player workloads were increasingly harder to manage. "We monitor data pretty carefully, but you have guys playing for Chennai, for Glamorgan, for South Australia and for plenty of other teams around the globe," Howard said.
"They are professional cricketers and have got to play somewhere. One thing I am not sure about is resting bowlers too much - we want them to bowl consistently and be match-hardened. If a guy is ready to play, he should play,” Howard added.