Iyer’s injury flared up after the fourth Border-Gavaskar Test against Australia in March. Initially, he was understood to have been keen on exploring non-surgical options to manage the issue to try and be available for at least the second half of IPL 2023. However, “excruciating pain” arising from a slipped disc forced him to reassess, keeping in mind the “long years” he had ahead of him as an athlete.
“I had this issue for a while, but I was taking injections and going through various routes to see to it that I am steady and playing many more matches,” Iyer told the BCCI website. “But it reached a saturation point where I realised that ‘okay, now I have to get a surgery.’ And the physios and the experts, the back experts, told me that it’s important you go under the knife and get this done with.
“To be precise, I had this nerve compression, basically a slipped disc which was compressing the nerve and the pain was going all the way to the bottom of my tiny toe. It was horrendous, to be honest. At that point in time, I was in excruciating pain. I wasn’t able to express myself properly as to what I was going through.
Iyer underwent surgery in London in April and stayed back for three weeks so that the doctors there could monitor his progress, before checking into the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru for a three-month rehab. That process ended last week when Nitin Patel, the head of NCA’s medical staff, gave Iyer the final go-ahead after a series of practice matches.
“It was a roller-coaster ride, to be honest,” Iyer said. “The pain was there until three months [ago], and then after that, it started subsiding. But at the same time, the physios were focused on getting the range back – of my hamstring, glutes and everything.
“When you’re going through rehab as a professional athlete, it is tough when the pain is not subsiding. Thankfully, I had a great set of friends around me, the support staff, and also my family. They were the ones who calmed me down. I was panicking as well, but patience is key at this point of time. So yeah, I’m truly happy to be where I am right now, because I never imagined I would recover so fast.”
“I am happy being where I am. I am ticking all boxes day by day in terms of preparation.”
Iyer on his rehab
During the rehab phase, Iyer admits to being overwhelmed. But in the end, the work he put in paid off to the extent that he was “surprised” at his scores in the yo-yo test, which involves high-intensity sprints over a set distance.
“The testing phase was the toughest period to go through,” he said. “The physios and trainers were pretty confident of me coming back strong. But in my mind, I could feel the pain. I was pretty oblivious at that point of time, [to] whether I would pass the test or not. But over a period of time, I realised pain was subsiding and strength was improving in my legs.
“Gradually, we started doing some running sessions. The first running session was extremely tough and I was a bit perplexed at that point of time as to what would happen. In the second session, I was progressing. I did some trial yo-yo tests, and after some time, I played a match and then I was gaining that momentum. In the yo-yo test, I surprised myself as well.”
As he gears up to reclaim his No. 4 spot in the ODI set-up, which will help him make a pitch for a maiden World Cup berth, Iyer is focused on staying in the present and not worrying about the baggage of the past.
“I am happy being where I am. I am ticking all boxes day by day in terms of preparation. I had a fantastic two days of practice with the boys. It was competitive and I’m happy to be here, embracing each and every moment.”
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo