It is a race against time for Sachin Tendulkar in his bid to recover from a tennis elbow ahead of the much-awaited four-Test series against Australia, beginning on October 6.
The master batsman, who last played for India in the Asia Cup final in Colombo during August, was forced to miss the Videocon tri-series and the ICC Champions Trophy due to a shooting pain in his left elbow.
Indian team's physio Andrew Leipus has indicated that the 31-year-old Tendulkar, who had overcome a career-threatening back injury in 1999, was responding well to `shockwave' treatment.
Since he throws right-handed, some past cricketers hold the view that Tendulkar's tennis elbow could have been the direct result of an `over used' top hand, during his lengthy batting sessions in Mumbai after the Asia Cup.
The Tennis elbow
Dr. Anant Joshi, a consultant with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, shed light on tennis elbow. "It is actually a small tear in the origin of muscles at the elbow that runs through to the wrist. In effect, wrist movement causes pain at the elbow. It can happen acutely and immediately, need not have to be over a period of time."
About the shockwave treatment to which Tendulkar is said to be responding well, Dr. Joshi said, "It is an assorted kind of remedy. The treatment is used to break kidney stones. This form of treatment is popular in Europe. The recovery time depends on treatment. Rest is the primary."
Over use of Top hand
Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar, a quality middle-order batsman who peaked in the mid 80s, said, "I had gone through the same injury because of the overuse of the top-hand."
"The pain was terrible," remembered Vengsarkar. "It takes at least four weeks to heal. I could not even lift a cup of tea," he said. It was ultrasound treatment and rest that enabled him to recover.
Vengsarkar revealed that batting legend Sunil Gavaskar may also have suffered from a similar problem. "If you remember, there was a period, when he was wearing a forearm band," he said.
The Mumbai batsman is convinced that it was only the `top hand' — the left hand for a right-handed batsman — overuse that led to the problem.
"If the injury is caused due to batting, then it will affect the left hand of a right-handed batsman and vice versa. A right-handed batsman would never get the injury on his right hand," he said.
"The weight of the bat is a crucial factor. A lighter bat would help," Vengsarkar added.
Weight of the bat
Former India opener Parthasarathy Sharma, considered a technically well-equipped batsman during his time, has done specific study on bat weights for the National Cricket Academy.
Like Vengsarkar, he attributed Tendulkar's tennis elbow to `heavy bat, and use of the top hand."
Sharma says, "Tendulkar is a great player, but on the tours of Australia and Pakistan, and during the Asia Cup, he was using the bottom hand so much, that most of his strokes were on the on-side. There was hardly any shot on the off-side."
According to Sharma, Tendulkar must have watched the tapes of those matches and attempted to take corrective action by using the top-hand more during those extensive nets in Mumbai prior to the Videocon tri-series in Holland.
"It is while doing so, let's not forget he is using a heavy bat, that he must have suffered the injury. I am sure he must have attempted to use the top hand more and tried to be more fluent on the off-side," said Sharma.
Sharma, who has experimented with several bats, each at a difference of 25 to 50 grams, with the under-15 and 17 boys at the NCA, said the ideal bat weight for someone like Tendulkar should be between 1100 and 1200 grams.
The former Rajasthan captain is of the opinion that heavy bats had an adverse impact on the youngsters. "With the heavy bat, you cannot play the horizontal bat shots, there is little footwork, there is a tendency to stand up and play strokes, and the bottom hand comes into play affecting off-side strokeplay.
Tendulkar is a phenomenon, a great player, and he can get away with a lot of things. But not the others, in case they try out a heavy bat."
Tennis great Ramanathan Krishnan, who was never bothered by a tennis elbow during his illustrious career, said "generally a tennis player gets it if his technique is faulty. I never had a problem, but some others have suffered. The injury normally affects the tendon, and the pain, from what I have heard, can be quite considerable. It takes at least six weeks to heal."
Tendulkar, who has triumphed in several duels on the cricketing arena, has a battle of a different kind to win this time.