New Delhi: India crashed out of the T20 World Cup played in UAE. This was for the last time that Virat Kohli was leading Indian Team in the shortest format of the game and surely this was not the way he must have intended to end his reign as a captain of the national side.
India lost their crucial games against Pakistan and New Zealand early in the tournament and ended the campaign with a win against Namibia in the Super 12 round.
Team management and analysts will sit down and contemplate on the reasons behind the average performance. After personal performances in this year’s IPL, Indian players were on a high and India looked a strong contender for the title and it was highly expected that Virat Kohli might lay his hands on an ICC trophy for the first time. However, things went the other way.
One reason at which a few players, including Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah, hinted during the press conference was continuous cricket and hectic schedules without any break to relax. All the players need to rest and be with their families and shifting from one bio-bubble to another has not done any good to their mental and physical health. The Outgoing head coach of India Ravi Shastri had said, during a press conference, that he wished they had a bit longer break between IPL and the T20 World Cup.
These statements raise the question: Is it too much cricket for the Indian team? Yes, there is a possibility of this because they are human beings first and professional cricketers later who are seeking space to rest and rejuvenate.
Now let’s try and understand in detail how the workload and bio-bubble is possibly impacting the players.
Players Workload: With International commitments and IPL, the big match players have been facing a heavy workload. This has been going on for a very long time, and Covid-19 has just made it worse, really worse. Indian team has a fixed core of players for all three formats with only a few players who get replaced according to the format, like Pujara, Rahane and Ashwin, who have played only Test cricket in the last few years. With the ODI world cup and T20 world cup already being there, the World Test Championship has only increased the pressure on the players.
Bio-Bubble Restrictions: Due to the pandemic, the concept of bio-bubbles came into existence. In the environment of bio-bubbles, the players have been allowed a limited movement out of their hotels. It means limited options to relax with continuous workload and pressure of the game. Recently, Indian captain Virat Kohli, who gave up captaincy in the shortest format, raised the issue of managing the workload after playing intense cricket over the last 6 to 7 years.
Tight Schedule and Fixtures: Due to the pandemic, the tours, fixtures and cricket schedules have suffered, specially the World Test Championship. After everything started to get normal, series and fixtures were fixed to take place in a short span of time.
The question is why? The players had no match fitness after spending months in their homes. Is it really justifiable that the management expects best performance from the players each and every time?
Agreed that India won against Australia in their own backyard for a second consecutive time after creating history in the 2018 tour. So many test series, oneday series, T20 series and then of course the IPL, why are players being put into too much of cricket? The answers could range from for their love and passion for the game, for money or for popularity, but it comes at the cost of players mental health and fitness. Just because the schedules have suffered due to a pandemic, which shook the world and not just cricket, players will face the heat and then face criticism for poor performance? If you ask me, that’s bizarre.
Money and Revenue At Stake: Massive revenue generated through franchises, broadcasting rights and obviously advertisements. Along with international series and tours, IPL has been a regular feature in Indian cricket since 2008. With huge amounts of money involved the superstars be it Indian or International with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, AB Devilliers, Chris Gayle to name a few have been the real crowd pullers.
A new debate has started amongst the experts and former cricketers: Does it really have to be IPL over national duty? Are money and profits all that this sport has been reduced to?
The story doesn’t end here. After the exit from this world cup, Indian team will play New Zealand this month. Talking about the Indian team’s schedule leading up to the next T-20 world cup next year, it’s packed with test cricket, T-20 cricket and One Day Internationals. India are to play South Africa, West Indies, Srilanka and England. What is the criteria of setting up these fixtures which does not consider the workload? Believe me, the questions are never ending.
The whole point is for a cricketing body like the BCCI deciding the whole calendar sitting in an AC room, how much cricket is too much cricket? Are players puppets? Is cricket all about revenue and profits?
In the middle of everything that this sport is surrounded by, where is the sport itself?