The Indian boxing team is to depart for the World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan early Saturday morning, with a squad of ten boxers, three coaches but no physio or doctor. The team has been travelling this way since the London Olympics after the IABF’s wrangles with AIBA, the international boxing federation.
“Ever since we faced sanctions by AIBA, we have only been allowed to send boxers and coaches for tournaments. We can’t send officials or even doctors and physios,” says Rajesh Bhandari, secretary general of the IBF.
The team has taken part in three tournaments prior to the World Championships, but Astana will be the first time the team will fight without headguards. The removal of a safety feature makes the lack of the medical staff even more hazardous. While teams are now permitted three members in their corner - two coaches and a cutman to stem bleeding, Indian boxers will have to do with just the two coaches. In the doctor and physio’s absence, coaches travelling with the team have to shoulder the extra burden.
According to Hari Shankar Varma, the team’s physiotherapist, says the squad is as prepared as it can be, despite the challenge. “They are carrying a medical kit with painkillers, bandages, ointments and anticoagulants to deal with the cuts that will become inevitable without headguards. Our coaches have a lot of experience and even their diploma teaches them to deal with a lot of situations. Something like a swelling or muscle soreness shouldn’t be too much of a problem. That is simply a case of applying ice on the affected part. The difficulty comes when you have some slightly more serious case, such as a spinal problem or a bone injury. A coach doesn’t have the knowledge to deal with such a thing,” says Varma.
That may be so, but there still are a few issues that will be tricky to resolve. Varma will have to stay in touch with coach Kuttappa, who will be travelling with the team, through whatsapp. He will also have to keep the boxers informed on what medicines or