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By Sunil Gavaskar
The Indian Premier League has seen a plethora of columns written by former players as well as by those currently playing in the Indian Premier League. It is interesting to read the views of the current players especially if it is something written by them and not a ghost writer who is given some points or who suggests points and to which the player gives his views. The recent column by Jacques Kallis was an interesting read because for the first time a senior player like him has said that the T20 format is the least tiring of the three formats in the game today.
This was interesting simply because with two teams being added to the Indian Premier League next year there was talk that there would be burnout of the players with too much cricket. Remember there was similar talk of a burnout a few years back and that body called the FICA had come out strongly against more matches and more tours. The moment the Indian Premier League was announced and the player auction took place with some overseas players going for more than double what they got for playing for their respective countries all talk of burnout was forgotten and players were desperate to get into the IPL. Those who were not suited or were not good enough for the IPL of course tried to earn brownie points by suggesting that they had turned their backs on the IPL offers and instead chosen to keep themselves fresh for the matches for their countries. It didn't really help as neither did their own performances improve nor did their teams win.
Kallis' column said that while it was quite natural that recovery time from injury or even tiredness gets longer as one gets older, because the T20 format game was less than one innings of a one day match and was over and done within three hours the burnout factor because of playing was not really there.
However what he rightly suggested is that it is the travelling which involves catching early morning flights, checking in and then waiting for the flights to take off and changing hotels every other day which is infinitely more tiring than the actual playing. That is so true because a player trains himself physically and mentally to play any format of the game and over a period of time gets used to the rigours of it but he cannot despite several tours and seasons in the game come to terms with the amount of travelling which involves checking in and out of hotels and airports. It is here that the travel coordinator can help by making sure that the flights are at a comfortable hour so that a player having played a tough game the previous evening gets enough rest to recover and be ready for the next game.
Many years ago when the Indian team first played in a tri-series in Australia the team invariably travelled by an early morning flight to the next destination after having played a day night game the earlier day. The adrenaline is still pumping for a few hours after every game and in a day night match which gets over around 10.30 the player is still excited and charged up for a few hours after that and so finds it hard to get sleep and if after that he has to get up and catch an early morning flight then he loses the next day too. That is why immediately after that tour the message went out to the BCCI to ensure that flights after a day night game were only around noon or maybe after lunch so that players could get a good nights rest and be ready for the next game properly rested.
It is this that those in charge of the next year's scheduling of matches have to get right so that teams get to stay in their home centre for a few days and then move to play away games and again here where there is minimal of travel. To give an example if a West based team travels to the South then its second game also should be in the South so that travel time is less. It won't always be possible to get it right since India is a big country and so there may well be situations where the travel maybe a bit more but as long as the time is not early in the morning the players won't mind too much.
The other interesting column was where Dale Steyn pleaded for more bowlers to be administrators so that their tribe could be protected from what he sees as a game dominated and ruled by batsmen. It is an extremely valid call and if there is a good mix of bowlers and batsmen in committees that take such decisions the better balanced the game would be. Again going back some years when lower order batsmen were being sent up the order as pinch hitters and plonking their front foot forward and hammering bowlers of great pace to all corners of the field simply because they knew that with the bouncers being disallowed in limited overs cricket there was no comeback for the quick bowler after being clobbered for a four or six.
The earlier years of limited overs cricket where there were no circles and field restrictions and no restriction whatsoever on the bouncer the batsman especially the lower order one dare not get onto the front foot at all. That restriction on the bouncers was removed by the ICC committee under the Chairmanship of a batsman (mind you, all chairmen so far have been batsmen) and bowlers were allowed to bowl a bouncer in the over and that saw the end of the pinch hitters though of course a naturally aggressive stroke player got promoted up the order but knew how to handle a short ball.
Now of course the ICC Cricket Committee has got bowlers, coaches, match referees, umpires and administrators in the committee so nobody can claim that it is loaded in favour of a batsman. Still Steyn has a point though he may look at bowler turned umpires and find that even they don't give the close leg before decisions that they would have wanted out when they were bowling themselves.
So there is no guarantee that more bowlers in decision making would help ease the bowlers lot but its a good thought alright.