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Injured player praises Shah Rukh, KKR

By Haresh Pandya in Rajkot
May 11, 2009 11:31 IST
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Prolific Saurashtra batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, who is recuperating from the injury sustained on the eve of the Indian Premier League in South Africa, is confident of making a speedy recovery and playing with vigour in the next domestic season.

"It feels sad missing the action and watching the cricket on television at home. But I've taken my injury philosophically," he tells in Rajkot. "There's no point being unnecessary sentimental. No sportsman should when it comes to injuries. They're part and parcel of a sportsperson's life."

"I've to accept that I'm injured and can't take the field for a couple of months. But I'm sure I'll be back on the road well before the next domestic season begins. I know the ball is in my court. I've been religiously doing all the physical exercises suggested by the doctors. There's no reason why I can't regain my full physical fitness in due course of time."

Pujara tore his left ligament while fielding for his team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, during a practice match in Bloemfontein on April 13. The injury rendered him hors de combat before the first ball was bowled in the lucrative tournament.

"All my team-mates, including Brendon McCullum and Sourav Ganguly, showed genuine concern and said they are with me in my hour of crisis. Our coach John Buchanan and CEO Joy Bhattacharya told me not to worry and promised that the KKR would take care of my medical and other expenses," says Pujara.

Pujara had to undergo an operation and he and his father Arvind Pujara, a former Ranji Trophy player, wanted it to be performed in Rajkot. But the KKR team management insisted that he be treated in South Africa itself.

A reluctant Pujara agreed on the condition that his father and an orthopaedic surgeon from Rajkot should be by him during the operation. The KKR team management raised no objection and even assured him it would bear all the expenses of the duo's visit to the land of rand.

"I was overwhelmed by the KKR for having shown so much kindness and generosity towards Cheteshwar and us. Contrary to whatsoever appears in the media about the KKR franchisee Shah Rukh Khan, I must say I was touched by his magnanimous gesture. It was he who wanted Cheteshwar to be treated in South Africa and approved of our visit as well," adds a visibly emotional Arvind Pujara.

Accompanied by Rajkot's orthopaedic surgeon and sports injury specialist Dr Nirbhay Shah, he landed in South Africa on April 30. They were provided accommodation in the same five-star hotel where Pujara and the KKR team stayed during the conditioning camp.

On May 1, South African surgeon Dr P J Erasmus performed an operation on the cricketer at his Stellenbosch Medi-Centre in Cape Town in Dr Shah's presence. The procedure, in medical parlance, is called left knee arthroscopy and ACL (interior crucial ligament).

"Buchanan and almost all my team-mates either called up or sent good luck messages before I went under the knife. Jai Mehta, one of the KKR owners, called up and said he prayed for my speedy recovery. They all are in regular touch with me since," emphasises Cheteshwar Pujara.

"The operation lasted about two hours. Dr Erasmus did a good job. Cheteshwar has been advised to use crutches for three to four weeks and do some basic exercises. Then he will undergo some vigorous orthopaedic exercises under me," says Dr Shah.

"It is not an uncommon injury among footballers, rugby players and cricketers. Cheteshwar has been cooperating very well and should be perfectly alright before too long. He is famous for his strong willpower. This is what he has to show during his rehabilitation period."

Pujara, his father and Dr Shah returned to Rajkot on Wednesday evening via Dubai and Mumbai. "The KKR gave Cheteshwar a business class ticket as his injured leg required larger space to feel comfortable during the long journey. Dr Shah and I travelled economy class," adds Arvind Pujara.

Fate has forced Cheteshwar Pujara, one of the busiest cricketers on the circuit, to take compulsory rest. But the youngster, who is known for his positive approach to life and cricket, has been making the most of it.

He has been reading motivational, spiritual and, of course, cricket books, particularly biographies and autobiographies of famous players, while recuperating from the surgery. His friends and cricketing colleagues from Saurashtra keep dropping in.

"It's almost after a year or so that we are staying together under one roof," says his dad. "He had been so busy playing cricket and travelling that he would be hardly at home. I'm certain he'll be fit soon and start scoring heavily again."

Photograph: Bikash Mohapatra

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Haresh Pandya in Rajkot