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Interviews

Prasidh Krishna: 'As fast bowlers, you sign up for injuries and long days. It's part of our game'

A year after a lower-back injury took him out of the game, the fast bowler is ready to reclaim his place in India's attack

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
09-Aug-2023
Prasidh Krishna, in his first over, had Virat Kohli nicking behind, Rajasthan Royals vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2022 Qualifier 2, Ahmedabad, May 27, 2022

"The first thing I asked the doctor after my surgery was, 'Will I be able to be a little kid again?'"  •  BCCI

Last year around this time, Prasidh Krishna was among the contenders for India's pace-bowling arsenal for the World Cup, but he hasn't put on the blues since India's tour of Zimbabwe, when a lumbar spine injury sidelined him.
Prasidh's tall frame allows him to extract steep bounce while bowling in the high 140s, which made him a key point of difference in the middle overs. The injury setback came just as his India career was about to take off. A year on, as he gears up for the T20I tour of Ireland, he reflects on his journey - the injury, the diagnosis, rehabilitation process of understanding himself - ahead of his comeback series, in this chat in Bengaluru.
Let's go back to when the injury first cropped up. It's August 2022. You play the ODIs in Zimbabwe. You're then named in the India A squad for New Zealand, and suddenly that's the last we hear of you until the BCCI issues a media release in February. What happened?
We were playing the second ODI in Zimbabwe [in August 2022]. I came off the field, did a small stretch and told the trainer that I'm feeling a little too slow and we need to up our training to something more power-oriented to feel fast. I initially thought it was a conditioning-based thing. We'd played in England, then we travelled to the West Indies and then Zimbabwe. So this feeling was on and off.
I was rested for the third ODI, along with Mohammed Siraj. Then I got back to Bangalore and I was named in India A's squad for the four-day games against New Zealand A. During training, I had a little bit of stiffness while bending, so I went to the physio [Tulsi Ram], who was part of the Zimbabwe tour as well. He said, "Why don't we get a scan done?" That showed I had a stress fracture in my left lumbar spine, so I was withdrawn from the series.
We decided to give it a break for a few weeks before I started rehab. This is where the NCA rehab team of Shrikant Iyengar, Rajnikanth and Nitin Patel came into the picture. So I started my rehab after some time off and there wasn't much pain after a couple of weeks of rest. We had a protocol with some set timelines because a stress fracture of the back is something we can't be negligent about.
What was the initial rehab process like?
It began at the end of September-early October. I was doing everything except bowling for the first eight to 12 weeks. Then we slowly introduced gym activities, where I was running, I was jumping around, I was doing a lot of burpees, I was working on my running technique and how the body can be brought to a stable base.
We had a repeat scan after eight weeks, and it showed there was a little bit of healing that was happening, which was a positive sign for us. And then I started bowling like how I would, but at low intensity. And suddenly - I'm not sure which week of bowling it was, maybe second or third week - I didn't feel any pain on my left side but had a little bit of soreness in my right glute. Again, I thought it was a conditioning-related issue. It only happened to me when I was bowling with full intensity. If I was doing three sessions in a week, the third session would feel sore, but after a two-day break, I would feel okay again. So this continued. We were now getting a scan done once every four weeks and kept an eye on what the healing process was like.
Initially you were supposed to make a comeback during the end stages of the Ranji Trophy, in January. What happened?
In January I was bowling at full tilt and we were looking at a time frame of around end-January to early February for my comeback. The idea was to play a few games, and then the IPL would happen. The review scan was to happen mid-January. Although I was bowling full tilt, the scan showed there was a stress reaction in the right lumbar spine as well. Now because both the left and right side were affected, it needed to be addressed. That is when we took a step back and Dr Rowan Schouten [orthopaedic spine surgeon from Christchurch, New Zealand] came into the picture.
The NCA was in constant touch with him about my back injury. He explained what a surgery will do to me, and why it is a better plan compared to conservative measures that we had taken. The surgery would make my back bulletproof, and chances of the injury recurring would be next to none. Whereas if you opt for a conservative measure, to wait for some time, while there may be some success, there could also be a chance of recurrence because there's nothing else there [in the spine] for support. This is when I decided that since anyway I had spent so much time away, there was no harm in me taking another six months off to sort myself out fully.
The NCA organised my visa to New Zealand for the surgery. At the time, visas were taking a while for processing. But New Zealand Cricket [NZC] stepped in to help and got my medical visa sorted out quickly. So there was a lot of effort from all sides.
The surgery happened [mid-February]. I was a bit sore for a few days but surprisingly I started walking the same day as the surgery. I was in the hospital for three days and in the country for another two weeks, just in case something went wrong. Then I flew back to India, had time off for four to six weeks, and then the process of rehab started again - getting back into running, getting back into bowling and all of that.
It took us about 24-26 weeks since the day of surgery [to get back to bowling], and here I am now, ready to go. I've played a few practice games. I played a KSCA League game as well. I'm feeling pretty good. I feel as normal as I was before the injury happened.
Your India career had just taken off when you got injured. How difficult was it to accept it?
I'm not someone who gets excited or nervous about anything. I take it in a balanced way. As fast bowlers, you sign up for injuries, you sign up for hard-working days, you sign up for long days… all that is a part of our game. I mean, it's not easy when everybody is playing a lot of cricket. There's so much happening and you're sitting at home not really being available for selection, but I was optimistic.
I was a little restless, of course, in the initial phase before the surgery, as to why it was taking so long, especially since I'd started bowling. There were days when I felt great and like "Oh, I'm ready to play", but then after two more sessions I'd realise I need a lot more of these and at the same intensity for the body to condition itself. If I have to look to play at the highest level, the intensity is going to be high. Once the surgery was done, I was prepared that it's going to take time. I changed the way I looked at things. I took it one day at a time. I was enjoying my training, I had a good time with my family. Great things happened. I was very optimistic and positive.
What was it like going to another country, being by yourself and going through surgery and post-surgery routines?
I travelled with my mother and Suresh Rathore [NCA physiotherapist]. We had a good time. Like I said, I was in the hospital for three days. And then, New Zealand being such a beautiful country, I'd go out for walks with the two of them. Sometimes alone. In the first couple of days, I was walking 20 minutes. Then I slowly extended it to 30-40 minutes, walking at regular pace.
I did have stiffness while bending and during any other activity, but walking wasn't a problem. It was very nice to be in a country where there's so much peace, not too many people around, great weather, cool air, so it was nice to be there and then come back to India to your people, family and all that.
What did you do to keep negativity away during this entire period?
Initially when I got injured, I was on my PlayStation a lot most days, maybe five to six hours at a stretch at times. Later, I realised it's just a waste of time and I need to use my time better. I ended up reading a few books, listening to a lot of podcasts.
Rajasthan Royals introduced me to a couple of people who did breathing patterns, a coach and a nutritionist who played a very important role in me being me today. I met these people at the time of surgery. Royals were also in constant touch with me and the NCA for updates. I know how big a miss it was for them to have one of the players who played all the games the previous season unavailable for the whole tournament.
Mon Brokman [breathing and mental conditioning expert], an Israeli, was a terrific companion during this tough time. Not just the breath training, just to meet a person like him, to learn about the experiences he's had and chat with him was great. I felt he was a great listener who you could have great conversations with. There were some instruments he had that he introduced me to, which helped me in learning to breathe better, which is really important in today's world. Not many people are aware of it. He was part of the team later on during the season. Royals wanted us to work with him before [the IPL] so that it gets easier through the season. Unfortunately, I wasn't part of the season, but having met him, having learnt so much, having spoken so much to him, that's played a very important role.
When you're coming back from an injury and going out onto the field, does that thought of "Oh, but what if I get injured" cross your mind at all?
That is never a thing I have in my mind, because I've already signed up for it when I chose to be a fast bowler. You can only control what you can control - waking up, feeling happy, going to training. I don't think about what could happen.
When you took the field for Mount Joy Cricket Club at the end of July, what was that feeling like, standing on top of your mark and bowling again.
It felt really great playing for the team I started off with. I've played for Mount Joy all my life. I did have a bit of nerves the previous day and in the morning, because no matter what game you're playing, especially when there are numbers that matter, it's really important.
When I started the first over, I was telling myself, "Look at yourself, run in the way you want to, you're feeling great," and all that. First over I did end up giving away 14 runs, but I realised I need to have my numbers in control. There are ten others dependent on you doing well. The first over felt really good; after that I was able to get back, think about the game, think strategically and was able to do whatever I had planned. It did feel great to get that box ticked, playing a competitive game.
You got married recently, you're making a comeback. What's the foremost feeling now?
I'm excited to be back, firstly on the field, to be able to run in, jump around, fall. The first thing I asked the doctor after my surgery was, "Will I be able to be a little kid again?" I want to jump, roll on the ground, do everything I was doing. Will I be able to, or are there restrictions? The doctor said there's nothing to worry, you can continue to be yourself, forget about the back. And that's exactly how I feel today. I'm able to slide, roll, do everything that I want to, jump, be a monkey on the ground or wherever. That's the most exciting part of it.
And yes, I am excited to play. I know the feeling of having that pressure in a game when the team depends on you, the responsibility you have. I was missing all of that watching cricket on TV. I was putting myself in those positions thinking what I'd do, Now that I'm here, and I'll be given a chance to do all of that. It's exciting for me to go ahead and do what I can do best.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo