Today the Proteas will take to the skies from OR Tambo International Airport, a place most of them will be all too familiar with, given their numerous overseas commitments, holidays and punishing international cricket schedules.
While most of these trips are on the fancy side of travel, the cumulative effect of all this to-ing and fro-ing does not put any less of a strain on the athletes’ bodies.
The recent Indian Premier League (IPL), with its Herculean demands on the players’ mental and physical prowess, is just one example, as Proteas physiotherapist Craig Govender pointed out this week.
In making reference to the back injury that Kagiso Rabada sustained during the IPL, he noted that “the guys don’t have the best seats on the domestic flights in India – and they fly a lot”.
Rabada and Dale Steyn – who sustained a shoulder injury, also at the IPL – were said to be making good progress in their respective recoveries. But concerns remain, given that there are just 11 days to go until the start of the Cricket World Cup in England. The campaign runs from May 30 to July 14.
This has been the first time the IPL has preceded the 50-over World Cup, and most cricket boards expressed concern that their players might be too drained if they played throughout. In fact, before the IPL began, England and Australia said that their World Cup players would not be available for the back-end of the world’s most lucrative T20 league.
South Africa, on the other hand, decided on a sho’t left strategy and, reportedly against the wishes of coach Ottis Gibson, let its players see out the tournament. And see it out they did, with Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and Imran Tahir all playing in the final last week.
Including today’s trip to England, the three – arguably among the core players who will most likely feature in every World Cup game – would have spent 30 hours on a plane in less than seven days. Add to that the fact that wicketkeeper De Kock and 40-year-old Tahir played every single game for their franchise this season, it’s a wonder that neither of them has sustained any injuries.
But if it’s momentum the cricket suits wanted, that’s what they got – because this IPL season bore fruit for the Proteas.
Tahir picked up the Purple Cap award for the most wickets taken, and De Kock – who is also the only wicketkeeper going to the World Cup – finished third on the most-runs list, while also bagging the trophy with the Mumbai Indians.
Rabada, who left the IPL before the play-offs, put his back into it and was the tournament’s top wicket-taker until Tahir pipped him to the post in the final.
Flights and fatigue might be the F-words our team need to steer clear of for a while – and with injuries still looming and the C-word making a comeback ahead of cricket’s showpiece, it might be wise for the Proteas to decline the peanuts on the plane...