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Beefy's Big Sri Lanka Walk: Physio Dave Roberts prepares Sir Ian Botham

Beefy's walk on day three and how he is kept in shape by phsio Dave Roberts

It's 6.30am on Sunday morning and while some are enjoying a lavish breakfast at the Amayah Lake resort, former England physio Dave Roberts is putting Sir Ian Botham through tried and tested warm-up exercises for day three of Beefy's Big Sri Lanka Walk.

A simple black coffee satisfies a blister-free Botham for the stage ahead, a 13-mile route from UNESCO World Heritage site Sigiriya Rock to the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, and as the former all-rounder goes through his hamstring, quad and calf stretches he knows he's in good hands.

"The biggest contributing factor to his achievements, though, is his sheer bloody-mindedness and his never-say-die attitude."

Dave Roberts

Roberts isn't simply head physio; he's a friend who has overseen Botham's welfare, and that of his fellow walkers, on the majority of the 57-year-old's 16 fundraising treks and he is confident that his charge has got plenty more miles left in him.

"Beefy, from a walking perspective, is blessed with natural, almost-perfect foot posture as well as the biggest calves you've ever seen," Roberts. "People think of him as a big unit but he's strong and very flexible, so he's naturally-gifted in terms of his ability to be able to complete these kinds of challenges.

"The biggest contributing factor to his achievements, though, is his sheer bloody-mindedness and his never-say-die attitude. He sometimes does have delusions of grandeur and thinks he's something different from everybody else, but we soon knock him down a peg or two"

"Beefy knew that this walk was going to be more difficult than the ones in the UK, purely because of the temperatures and the humidity, so he's been training hard since May and getting miles under his belt to ensure that he was already in good condition by the time we got to the first day."

Botham marches on

Botham's current injury problems amount to a simple case of neck strain - an injury sustained on a fishing trip earlier this autumn and one that in recent days has given him ample excuse to make use of the spa and treatment services at Anuradhapura's Ulagalla Resort and the Amayah Lake resort, Dambullah.

"The settings have been quite stunning and I love having a plunge pool outside of my bedroom door to come back to after a day's walking," said Botham. "I've made good use of them and it has helped me on both days, to be honest, because my neck and shoulder were aching.

"The facilities and hospitality have been magnificent all the way through this trip. At first people weren't quite so sure what we were doing here but now the word is out and more and more want to know all about the walk and the work Laureus and the Foundation of Goodness is doing."


Roberts first teamed up with Botham shortly after the all-rounder signed for Worcestershire in 1987, overseeing his rehabilitation after a bone fusion necessitated spinal surgery.

He went on to look after the England team for a decade that included the 1990/91 and 1994/95 Ashes tours and although Australia won 3-0 and 3-1 respectively, Roberts recalls the time fondly.

"In those days we used to get hammered in Australia but it was still a fantastic experience," he said. "The one thing that all players miss when they retire is the camaraderie and banter in the changing room and on a walk like this we are able to recreate that type of environment.

"In 1994/95 we had to send as many as six players home with a range of injuries, including stress fractures, broken bones and wrist injuries. I remember Graeme Hick doing a disc in his back and just sitting back and thinking 'this is horrendous'.

"These days things are completely different on the field and off it too. Sports science and medicine have completely transformed England cricket. When you look at some of the lads chasing around the field you can see that they are proper athletes.

"The conditioning and fitness work they put in is incredible and they travel with a doctor, a strength and conditioning coach, massage therapist - you name it - whereas when I toured, I was it! So I've no doubt that England will be primed, fit and ready for the challenge in Australia.

"That said, Beefy often says to the players 'come and spend a couple of days on the walk with me and see how fit you are' - and I reckon he probably would out-walk a few of them!"

As well as being managing director of his own, established physio firm, Roberts heads up the medical services at Lancashire CCC.

Earlier this summer one of his colleagues operated on Old Trafford stalwart David Lloyd when 'Bumble' needed major knee surgery, an operation which forced Lloyd to miss England's fourth Ashes Test victory, but Roberts says there's little danger of the Sky Sports commentator missing any of this winter's return series.

"I looked after Bumble for the first couple of weeks after his surgery when he was going through a bit of pain but he's actually doing quite well now," he said.

"I saw him just before we came out to Sri Lanka and he was looking forward to going to Australia. Don't let him kid you - it's not all that bad. He'll do really well with that new knee!"

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