Thursday, 6 December 2012

Injuries, Intrigue and Law Suits

Just like Oliver, he wants some more.
As Australia's selectors fine tune their ideas ahead of the first Test of a new series against Sri Lanka, the now recurrent theme of injury, or the threat of it, has removed Bendemeer's Josh Hazelwood for the rest of the Test summer. A sore foot, in the same area as a previous injury, has ruled him out for six weeks. No talk of scan results and learned men in white coats stroking their beards in concurrence. Its just sore. John Hastings has a sore back, so he's out for Hobart. Michael Clarke is stiff and sore after Perth so he's ruled out of his only BBL game.

This plague of injuries that has cut our bowling stocks has been a worrying trend in the last twelve months. Are these boys soft? When iron men like Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus can't back up, its a concern that training methods and fitness isn't as good as it should be. Dennis Lillee, perhaps the toughest cricketer since the 1940's, mentally as well as physically, has been shaking his head in the press since the Australian team was named for the "grand final Test" against the Proteas in Perth.

"I would've thought as a professional sportsman knowing what's coming up and what events you have, you'd prepare accordingly. You set yourself for a number of Tests in a period of time. If I had a squad of fast bowlers myself at the moment you can bet they would be doing a hell of a lot more running and pushing themselves into the deck a bit more," Lillee said on ABC's Grandstand during the 3rd Test.

Perhaps the answer isn't in training methods or that we are throwing up an age of fast bowlers who lack spine and the guts to go with it. After all, its not the players who are cautiously ruling themselves out of matches or seasons. It could be that like the rest of us, the work places that Cricket Australia run are now being subjected to an enhanced awareness of player injury and a concern, which has little to do with the future of Australia's playing stocks. This hypersensitivity may have at its core a legal argument.

Last February, it was formally announced after months of speculation, that Nathan Bracken, the former Australian left arm swing bowler, was suing Cricket Australia over its failure to fully explore the nature of his knee injury and alleging that failure led to his premature retirement and a loss of income. Stating through his legal team that he would have played until he was 38 - a claim, if realised, that would have made him remarkable amongst quicker men - and that he wanted $1 million AUD in compensation. When the case got under way, CA doctors and team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris countered in the Supreme Court that Bracken didn't reveal the extent of the injury. Who knows? A tell all book is coming, according to Rob Horton, his manager. Bracken, clearly traumatised, danced his way with the stars on TV throughout the lead up to the court case, whilst his wife appeared in public in attention seeking sheerness and in print, in far less. Patterson may have described them as "the Sydney toff" but Fitzgerald might have claimed them as Sydney members of the nouveau riche Gatsby cliche.

Whether successful or not, the Bracken case highlights the modern trend in sport and in life, that there is always another way to skin a financial cat and men with the look of sombre avarice who'll help you do it. Playing through the pain is no longer acceptable for those who run sport because the pain leaves the playing field and is transferred from employee to employer by way of another game. There is truth on the cricket field, evident to all who play and watch but precious little of it in the courtroom.

The case represents threat and faced with such, knees jerk accordingly.

CA medical staff are loath to create more Brackens so those three letters which doom the past to wishful thinking - OH&S - have changed practice. When players present with soreness they get the next match off and if the soreness is located at the site of a previous problem, its six weeks. The slightest irregularity on a scan result and its the season.

Its just a theory of course but one I'd rather believe than think Siddle is a marshmellow man who melts under applied heat.