April 16, 2021
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What Burn Out?

Between July 30 and now, India has played a maximum of 89 days of international cricket. In comparison, tennis ace Roger Federer played close to 100 days last year. Tiger Woods featured in 126 days of competitive golf. The cricketers must stop making

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What Burn Out?
What Burn Out?

By the looks of it, Indian vice-captain Virender Sehwag has not been allowed to forget the rap on his knuckles that he received before the team left for the West Indies. A couple of days before the opening one-day international in Kingston, the media reminded him about his statement on the risk of player burn out and the flak that he received.

So was the Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary Niranjan Shah right in reminding Sehwag that if he had a problem with the scheduling, he should be talking to the BCCI and not airing his views in the media? Stung by that, the media itself castigated Shah for 'warning' Sehwag. I believe the Board was right in serving Sehwag a timely rebuke.

So are some Indian players risking burn out?

Some cold figures first: In the span of nine months between July 30 and now, India has played 11 Tests and 34 one-day internationals which is a maximum of 89 days of international cricket. It is scheduled to play 25 days of Tests and one-day internationals in the next few weeks. That makes it 15 Tests and 39 one-day internationals amounting to 114 days in a year. It is not as if they have spent seven hours of these days on the field, there would be days when they have been able to put their feet up and stay indoors.

Of course, like actors get choosy with films, the players can choose - in conjunction with the team management and the selectors - when they want rest. They just need to have the confidence in themselves that that they have the skill, temperament and form to reclaim their places in the national team. Now, in an age when competition for nearly all slots is hot, that appears the biggest challenge.

Just for the record, tennis ace Roger Federer played in 22 tournaments (stretching to 26 weeks) last year. That would be close to 100 playing days. And a certain Tiger Woods featured in 29 tournaments, translating to 126 days of competitive golf. The cricketers must really stop making these polite noises and get on with the game.

On a larger perspective, it is surprising that the players have chosen not to present their case in the right forum. The International Cricket Council calls for a meeting of the captains every year. I am not sure if any captain has ever raised this issue there. Cricket Australia, for instance, has pointed out that the players were consulted when the schedule was firmed up.

Yet, I could understand Australia skipper Ricky Ponting making a point about having to play five Test matches in South Africa and Bangladesh in as many weeks. "One (extra) day doesn't sound a lot, but coming here (Bangladesh) if we had one more day before the first Test we would have been better off," he said, drawing attention to the fact that there was not too much gap between matches.

Indeed, it is not as if the players do not have any case at all. So what are they really complaining about? There could be two things that they have not been able to articulate well enough. First, they have been referring to the scheduling of back to back matches. And then, to the lack of adequate gap between successive series.

Time was when Test tours were leisurely affairs. A warm-up game or two would precede every Test match but with the advent of TV and its focus on Tests and one-day internationals, cricket Boards did not need much convincing that these less intense matches be taken off modern tour schedules and the costs for TV companies.

This has resulted in the narrowing of gap between successive Tests and one-day internationals, crowding the schedule of stressful games into fewer days than before. It has led to Test matches or one-day internationals starting within three days of the previous game ending. And invariably, there is a day's travel thrown in.

Perhaps, the Boards will not miss the wood for the trees and add that extra day so that players are not weary when they take the field at the start of a big game. They really need to be able to tell the TV production houses that an extra day between games will do them some good too, especially with a set of entertainers who look and feel fresh.

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