With the player auction for the various franchises of the Indian Premier League done and
dusted with, the action now moves back to Australia where the Indian team has to win just
one more game to qualify for the finals unless of course Sri Lanka come up with a
superlative performance and win all their remaining games and go ahead of India in the
points table. This is the last of the Tri Series in Australia as Cricket Australia has
realized that one team touring their country in the second half of the season has to stay
on for a pretty long time and they thus lose the competitive edge as they near the end of
Those Indian players who have been here for the Tests as well as the Tri Series
limited overs matches have been in Australia since mid December and that is a long time to
be away from home. From next year Cricket Australia will have five One-Day matches apart
from the Test series with the team touring in the first half of their summer and another
five One-Day plus the Test series with the team coming in the second half. This will mean
a lot less days away from home and a much more compact tour which will have less jaded
players than in the current format of a long Tri series. Sri Lanka went home after playing
two Tests in Australia in November and then played a Test Series with England at home and
then have come back for the Tri series, so they are relatively fresher than the Indians,
some of whom look a bit homesick now.
Only a couple of years or so back there was a big hue and cry about the player workload
and the burnout factor for players with a suggestion being aired that some players may
have to resort to drugs to keep going. Now the very same people who were crying
themselves hoarse about too much cricket and too much travel are the ones signing up with
alacrity for the Indian Premier League. That is understandable as a player’s career is a
short one and can be even shorter due to an unexpected injury as in the case of Vinod
Kambli, and so if there is an opportunity to earn some money playing, then not too many
players will look the other way.
The other thing that those who have never played
international cricket will not easily understand is that if it is anything other than
international cricket, the intensity is much less and the tension and pressure that
players feel to perform is that much lesser. So a player who goes to play in County
Cricket in England will not have the same heat on him that he would usually have when he
is pulling on his country’s cap. He would not want to fail of course but even if he does,
it won’t feel like the end of the world as one feels when one has failed when representing
the country. In that respect, the mental toll is much less, though the physical toll
maybe more because of more cricket and less rest.
The India Premier League is Twenty20 tournament and with just one game a day for each
team, the mental and physical exertions will not be like in a limited overs game or a Test
match even if it is as tough a game or contest. There could be much more of a rotation
policy in these games looking at the stage where the teams are, and crucial players could
well be rested for the more important games to follow.
Speaking of rotation policy, the Australians do it best by resting key players and giving
them time off from the game altogether by letting them go home between matches. This way
the player is away from the cricketing environment and is able to recharge himself, being
with his family and switching off totally from the game for those few days. When Michael
Clarke got hit in the ribs by a nasty lifter from Lasith Malinga, they had to call up a
replacement to standby in case he was ruled unfit for the next match. The player chosen
to standby was David Hussey, the younger brother of Michael Hussey and the younger
brother’s reaction was that he was of-course delighted at the call up whatever the
circumstances but if selected would prefer a number higher in the batting order than the
older brother. Clarke eventually was declared fit after a fitness Test but what the
selection of David Hussey showed is that the so-called reserve bench of the Australians is
not a young one at all. David Hussey is 30 years old and by no stretch of imagination be
rated a youngster, and while I am of the firm belief that age should never be a criteria
for selection or omission, the fact that it is someone who is 30 who is called up is an
indication that Australia’s bench strength may not be as real as is written about.
Remember for the Test series too when Matthew Hayden was injured it was Chris Rogers who also is 30 years old was called in to replace him and in both innings that he played, he
looked pretty ordinary to say the least.
The BCCI cops a lot of flak for not being organized and various other so-called
shortcomings but it would be interesting to know how many other countries have players in
the their Test and One-Day squads who come from the interiors and non-metros as India has?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the man most in demand at the auction and the limited-overs skipper
of the Indian team is from Jharkhand which is not a cricketing place in the old fashioned
sense of the term. There are several performing players in the India team now who do not
come from the traditional cricketing cities as in the past. In contrast, how many of
Australia’s players are, say from Darwin or Cairns or the non-traditional supplier cities?
Or from the small towns in South Africa or from the non-Test centres of England? So to all
those who comment for their foreign readership, maybe it is time to lay off and give
credit where it is due and applaud BCCI for what it is doing to promote and develop the
game in the country. Yes, no organization is perfect and there is always room for
improvement but please don’t have a go at BCCI only to impress the foreigners.