The man who got the Indians in shape
With a bowler, you can ask how many wickets, with a batsman, how many runs. With a coach you can ponder the win-loss record. But, how do you judge a physio? Injuries come and go, striking even fittest of cricketers in the freakiest circumstances. It's never easy to judge how well a physio is doing his job. Yet, if the players he trains, and the coach he works with, have a decent comfort level, that's always a good sign. With Andrew Leipus, who is leaving the Indian team at the end of the Bangladesh tour after five years on the job, there's no doubt how the team feels.
"Andrew [Leipus] has been outstanding," says John Wright, fulsome in his praise. "He is a thorough professional but I think the biggest thing about him is his work ethic. He is going to be very hard to replace; you don't find too many Andrews around. You try and put good people around you and he is definitely one of those people."
Leipus, though pleased to hear Wright's comments, is modest. "I'm flattered he says that, we have grown to become a bit of a family. Obviously you spend so much time with people that you develop relationships and get good understanding of how each of us operate. We know the little quirks, when to back off and when to approach each other. It will be tough when someone else takes over, but it's life, no one is irreplaceable, ultimately."
When Leipus first began, in late 1999, he was able to quickly adjust to India and her people because he had already visited the country before, as a backpacker, with his girlfriend. "I think it really helped me to be honest; I knew the culture, I knew the country and I knew what to expect. It wasn't a huge culture shock; it's not like I got out of the plane and then have a central shock," he says. "I had seen India from the trains, buses, tuk-tuks and stayed in guest lodges so I experienced it from the ground level. Obviously at the other end of the spectrum I am standing with heroes and superstars of Indian society so I have seen probably both ends of the spectrum."
But what was harder to get used to was the media attention his job received. Every injury fuelled speculations and rumours. "I never expected that much attention when I first got here," he reflects. "Nowhere else in the world does the physio get that much attention from the media. You get periods when you get a bit of injury or something happens and you rest a player then the media sort of jumps on the story; it's a story and I know you are doing your job. "We are trying to keep the injury sort of quiet for whatever reason from the gamesmanship point of view that becomes a bit of problem. I get a bit of annoyed when there is too much going behind the scenes. Those are tough times; obviously when you are under the pump and there are a few injuries and the media is jumping on, asking 'is Leipus doing his job?' that's tough but generally, I have had a decent relationship with the media. I respect you guys for your job; it's a very tough job to do. You've a harder job than me, I think."
But if doing the job as Indian physio was hard, deciding to give it up was harder. "It wasn't easy, it was probably a tough decision to make; chuck the best job in the world and try and do something different," he says. "From that point of view, it's probably been the hardest decision in my life. But it wasn't an over and out thing, it was growing for a while."
Looking back at his tenure, Leipus could not pin-point one moment as an obvious high. "There are so many of them, really. Every tour you have your highs and disappointments. The World Cup was great, beating Australia (in India in 2001) was great; beating Australia in Adelaide was great." That was a special match for him, Liepus emphasises, because Adelaide is his hometown.
Then he singles out the personal milestones that the players achieved during his tenure, Tendulkar's 34th Test hundred, Sehwag's 309 and Laxman's innings in Kolkata, "They are all personal milestones that you feel proud of. It's a pity that I won't be around for Sachin's 35th hundred. It would have been nice to been a part of that. I am a bit disappointed about it."
But not half as disappointed as the team, who would have lost a good man.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo.