'The fitness parameters of the current Indian team are the best that it has ever been,' says the coach.
Rediff.com's Harish Kotian reports from the Wankhede Stadium.
Coach Anil Kumble seemed almost at a loss of words as he pondered about the spate of injuries which has hobbled the Indian team in the last year or so.
The biggest impact has been at the top of the order with openers Murali Vijay, K L Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan all suffering injuries and missing games since India's tour of the West Indies in July-August last year.
"It is not in our control, injuries are part and parcel of the game. Unforunately, Rahul got hit while he was fielding (during the second Test against England) in Vizag," Kumble said in Mumbai on Tuesday.
After recovering from the injury suffered to his left forearm, Rahul is expected to return to the side for the 4th Test against England, which begins at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday, December 8.
"I am sure Rahul will be fine, let's see how it goes," Kumble said.
With Dhawan and Rahul injured, Gautam Gambhir was summoned to the Indian side after two years. The stylish left hander played a couple of Tests against New Zealand and England before he was dropped.
Parthiv Patel was drafted in as the replacement opener for the third Test against England in Mohali.
"For New Zealand," the coach pointed out, "we had three different opening pairs, even in the West Indies we had an injury to Vijay, then Shikhar got injured against New Zealand, then Gautam had that freak injury in Indore but he could bat. So I think there is something happening with the openers in terms of injury, I hope that doesn't go on. There has to be some stop at some stage."
The injuries, Kumble emphasised, the Indian players suffered were routine injuries on the field and could not be blamed on cricketers spending more time in the gym.
"The injuries we have had are hamstring injuries," he added, "which are very common not just in cricket but in any sport."
"Unfortunately, Hardik (Pandya) got injured in the nets when he got hit by a ball. Rahul got hit fielding at short leg, Vijay got hit when he was batting and so did Shikhar. It is something that we got to live with."
"The good part," Kumble added, "is that the Indian team has really stood up and the people who have come in have contributed to the success of the team."
"The fitness parameters of the current Indian team are the best that it has ever been," Kumble said.
"I played in the '90s where fitness and strength conditioning was a personal choice and not a team choice," he added. "In the 2000s, the culture changed and you could see the difference of a team in the 2000s. Now it is part and parcel of modern cricket."
"I probably was at my fittest after I came back from my shoulder injury, in terms of my strength, in terms of what I could do on the field, recover quickly. As I was ageing I had to do more," Kumble, India's highest wicket-taker in Tests, said.
Cricket legend Dilip Vengsarkar, a former chairman of the selectors, recently blamed the Indian team's training methods for constant injury breakdowns.
'Players are getting injured due to modern training methods. Why are there only a handful of players who play more than 25 Tests in a row?' Vengsarkar was quoted as saying in the Hindustan Times.
'Most of the Indian players are spending their time in the air-conditioned gym rather than in the nets. If I was the captain I would prefer to have just the coaches and get rid of the support staff,' Vengsarkar, who played 116 Tests, added.
'I would prefer that the boys spend maximum time honing their skills in the nets than in the gym,' he said. 'It is not helping the players develop their muscles for the match and that is why they constantly break down.'
Kumble said he and the support staff would be happy to clarify the issue with Vengsarkar, currently the director of the National Cricket Academy.
"The current coaching staff, the strength and conditioning coach plus the physio are happy to sit down and clarify. Dilip is someone whom we really respect and he also holds a very responsible position as the director of the National Cricket Academy," Kumble said of his former team mate.
Kumble praised Parthiv Patel who made a comeback to the Indian team after eight years in Mohali following wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha's injury.
Patel hit an unbeaten 67 in the second innings to steer India to an 8 wicket victory. His skills behind the wickets also impressed Kumble.
"Parthiv didn't show the nerves that you would expect coming back after 8 years. He is a very seasoned campaigner," Kumble said. "He didn't show nerves, he came in, he was asked to open, he did that brilliantly and kept wickets really well."
"When he first came in as a 16 year old or 17 year old -- even today he looks 16 without the beard -- he showed a lot of maturity when he walked out in India colours for the first time. He saved the Test for India," Kumble said recalling a match which he also played.
"It certainly shows that if you are really putting in the hard yards in domestic cricket, never losing your faith and believing that you can come back into the Indian team, then it is possible," Kumble added.
"I was really pleased that he could walk into the match and not just keep wickets and bat at 6 or 7 but when he was asked to open, he put his hand up and did that really well," Kumble said. "That goes to show not just the individual, but the character of the player and to say team comes above self."
"He was not worried about failing, when you are coming into the team, making a comeback after eight years, you always want to do well for yourself but here was Parthiv who put his hand up and said 'I don't mind opening' and he did that really well," Kumble said.
"That shows the character of the player and I am really pleased with that."