New Delhi:Cricket overdose, fatigue, player burnout, crammed schedules... the cricket fraternity is abuzz with these words nowadays. Yet they have failed to budge the cricket administrators.
Even so, India's ODI skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has found enough support both from former and present cricketers as well as critics after he complained of an "overdose of cricket".
Former wicketkeeper and national selector Syed Kirmani said: "It's too much of cricket nowadays. It's high time the supreme authority (ICC) made a proper FTP so that players are not stressed - as was the case with Dhoni."
Haroon Lorgat, ICC's CEO too voiced his concern and said it was a challenge to maintain a balance. But just words cannot solve the problem. Different boards need to sit with the governing body and work on minimum and maximum number of matches each team needs to play in a year.
Dhoni had lambasted the Asia Cup schedule as his team was playing back-to-back games. The Indian team has been playing non-stop cricket for the past one and a half year with hardly any gap in between. Even coach Gary Kirsten shared the opinion and said it was unfair to expect players to play so much cricket in a short space of time.
But BCCI Vice-president Rajiv Shukla sternly said that players could opt out if they needed rest, as schedules were known to them in advance.
Fair enough Mr. Shukla! But how many players can actually afford to do it? Can the Board guarantee a player a place in the team after he returns to the side?
Dhoni pulled out of the Sri Lanka series because he knew his place in ODIs was safe. Had he not been the ODI captain, one wonders if he would take the same decision as not many captains have this privilege.
India's most successful skipper Sourav Ganguly recently said that only one player has been able to do it successfully, and that is Sachin Tendulkar.
"I don't remember missing out on a Test or a series when I was the captain. Perhaps I could not afford that," he said.
Some termed Dhoni's pullout as a brave decision while some called him an opportunist. But actually it is an alarming situation and the Board needs to pay heed to the players' concerns now. If we compare the top four or five teams, India end up playing the maximum number of games. Pulling out is not the best of the options for any cricketer as this is the last thing one would want to do.
Every cricket-playing country wants to host India for the financial advantage that is essential for the growth of the game in that country and the BCCI has been kind enough to oblige. As for the players, not all of them can have an illustrious and long career like Tendulkar, Dravid or Kumble, and therefore, they want to make most of the given opportunities. But it is the Board's responsibility to check the amount of cricket being played in order to prevent any burnout cases.
Let's compare the statistics from January 2007 to July 2008
Now, compare the games to be played from July 2008 to December 2008
After adding these numbers, India end up playing 28 Tests, 76 ODIs, 9 T20s in comparison to Australia's 19 Tests, 60 ODIs, 11 T20s and South Africa's 26 Tests and 54 ODIs, 9 T20s. Of course, these numbers do not include the IPL matches. And not to forget the hectic travelling and rigorous training which players go through before every match. As if this wasn't enough to tire the players; the cash-rich IPL gobbled up India's off-season too.
For India, April and May used to be the months where hardly any cricket was played and players recuperated and worked on their game. But now with the IPL filling the slot, where is the time for the players to rest and fine-tune their skills?
Most of our players are either struggling with injuries or struggling against injuries. And a cricket-mad nation that India is, we want our players to win every game. Professionalism should not be misunderstood for round-the-clock toiling on the field. For us cricket is a passion but aren't we pushing our players too hard? The BCCI for a moment needs to keep its bank accounts aside and work on the itinerary before it gets too late.
Whenever players complain about "too much cricket", we shrug of the matter saying more games mean more money. True, but that should not be the decisive and driving factor for the game. It's high time the board became sensitive toward the players and stopped treating them like machines that would keep performing with the same intensity all the time and at all levels of the game.
At the end of the day, let's not forget that the athlete inside a cricketer is a human being. Prone to injury, fatigue and fumble, they too need rest and time to get back into the groove.