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Sweat More Earn More
by Partab Ramchand
May 28, 2007
A recent cartoon in a newspaper said it all. A wickedly gleeful BCCI administrator, rubbing his hands in anticipation, is telling other equally wickedly gleeful officials ``Next year is a leap year. That means we can arrange one more one day match.’’

The cartoon aptly captures the morbid attitude of the BCCI whose greed seems to know no bounds. All sorts of tours and one day matches are being arranged anywhere and everywhere in the world with utter disregard for players’ fitness and the quality of the game. Money is the only factor that governs the BCCI, the burgeoning bank balance is the only thing it can see.

There was a time when the Indian cricket season began around October and ended in March. After that except when the Indians toured England there was no cricket at all till the following October. Everything was orderly and systematic, the cricket fan eagerly looked forward to seeing his favourites play before a packed and appreciative audience and the cricketers themselves were keen as mustard as they prepared for the season and the big games.

These days it is cricket all through the year. So many insignificant matches are played before empty stadiums and a dwindling TV audience. But for the BCCI only the ad revenues and sponsorship deals matter. After all it is highly influential in international circles purely on its financial power. Didn’t Liza Minnelli sing ``Money makes the world go around’’ in the 1972 classic `Cabaret’?

But there is a limit to the endurance of the players and the warning signals were hoisted in unmistakable terms in the second Test between India and Bangladesh at Dhaka. ``These were tough conditions to bat in’’ said Wasim Jaffer and this was a gross under statement. He and his opening partner Dinesh Karthik were both victims of the intense heat (100 degrees) and humidity (in the mid 90s) and were forced to retire with cramps. It is plainly asking for trouble having to play in these unbearable conditions with dehydration almost a certainty. One had only to see the sweat on Rahul Dravid’s face and shirt – and he had been batting for just about half an hour!

The Indian captain known for his reticence obviously cannot take it any longer. At the end of the first Test in Chittagong when conditions were hardly better he spoke out his mind on the ``over cramped schedule’’ adding that this could be very tough on the players. ``It can be frustrating too and there is an urgent need to plan the tours well and keep the players fit in order to provide the quality. We have to get the scheduling right and play only a certain number of Tests and ODIs.’’

Dravid hit the nail on the head. In suffocating heat the quality of play does suffer as one saw in the recent series in Bangladesh. Then there is the fitness angle. Teams these days have qualified physios among the back up staff but cricketers through fitness problems are forced to miss matches. After all there is a limit to which a human being can perform. Players are being worked into the ground and the burden of playing non-stop cricket is taking its toll. The game's administrators with their never quenching thirst for money may have to take the one step they dread - cutting back on the amount of international cricket. But will they?

No, they will not because the administrators are oblivious to players’ problems. If at all any proof was needed it was provided by BCCI vice president Lalit Modi who simply brushed aside Dravid's concern over the cramped schedule and fitness problems. "I don't agree with the fatigue factor. Our cricketers don't play more than our tennis players. The Australian and English cricketers play more. We are playing the same amount of cricket as in the past. It's just that we have marketed it better.’’ Yes, there’s the financial angle again even as the comparison with the tennis players had no relevance whatsoever.

Going a step further Modi also dismissed suggestions that the BCCI was bent upon thrusting meaningless ODIs on the overburdened team. "We are still playing around 100-110 days' of cricket in a year as in the past. The schedule may look a bit skewed in favour of ODIs because of the cycle. We play more ODIs this year but next year we will be playing more Tests against Australia and South Africa," he said. And then came his parting shot. ``The more we play the better it is for the team.’’ Perhaps he means financially for that is the only angle the myopic BCCI officials can see. But what about the heavy toll all this will take in the long run? Don’t ask the BCCI. It couldn’t be bothered. Right now they are busy contemplating the `moolah’ they will rake in from the conduct of the nondescript Afro Asian matches to be held in Chennai (yes, unbearably hot and humid Chennai) next month.

More Views by Partab Ramchand
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