ICL: Indian Cricket League

Team India at fever pitch


The sight of an exhausted Budhia looks familiar to those on the cricket circuit today
With just days to go for the West Indies series, the Indian cricketers are nursing a few ‘body’ blows. Weary after back-to-back series, Rahul Dravid burnt his fingers while talking about the burnout issue, and when Virender Sehwag spoke about the team missing a former skipper, he got gagged. Wiser after that, the Indian skipper the other day talked about the need for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to recognise the players’ body.

But is it the way out? Can the Indian Cricket PlayersÂ’ Association (ICPA) stand up to the all-powerful board and speak out? Chances are slim, considering that some important ICPA functionaries and other former players have to bank on the BCCI for their post-retirements perks. With commentators for Board-produced telecast, ICC postings and important coaching assignments decided by the BCCI, it seems todayÂ’s players will have to fight their own battle. And former players, led by batting legend Sunil Gavaskar, havenÂ’t helped the cause.

The BCCI nominee and just-retained chairman of ICC’s cricket committee’s “play 365 days for the country” quote isn’t something the players wanted to hear. Anybody who has followed the team closely in the last quarter of 2005 will tell you that Gavaskar, who played an average of six Tests a season and a total of just nine World Cup ODIs in his first 10 years, isn’t in touch with the changing times.

This writer followed Team India during that 58-day madness and can say that there is strong evidence of the BCCI excessively whipping its prized horses. The ‘eight lash’ limit that the race authorities enforce has long been crossed and the BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah’s “burnout or rest at home” statement on Tuesday amounts to a clear threat by the deal-a-day Board.

During those 58 days, India’s top cricketers played five ODIs against South Africa, sandwiched between seven ODIs and three Tests against Sri Lanka. They meant 27 days of actual cricket, about 50 days of training sessions, 17 flight check-ins, 15 hotel check-ins — plus the intense pressure to perform and satisfy the ever-demanding and volatile stadiums around the country. This hectic schedule also included that famous morale-shattering ‘away’ game at home, where a jam-packed Eden Gardens crowd booed Ganguly-less Team India.

From Kolkata, Rahul DravidÂ’s team went to Wankhede Stadium and looked drained. Despite that, Dravid played an energy-sapping innings of 78 from 106 balls on a hot and humid November night. Barely 48 hours later the Indian captain and his men were on the field at Chennai, where the constant threat of incessant rains meant a sticky and sultry Chepak. The two-day washed-out first Test meant that the team got a well-deserved rest, but by the time they adjusted to Chennai they were off to Delhi, where winter was setting in. The changing conditions started taking its toll. Sehwag was admitted to hospital with complaints of a severe throat infection, Dravid was running a mild fever, Mohammad Kaif too missed the match eve net session.

The skipper somehow made it to Kotla and opened the innings, but by the time the team was under the scorching Ahmedabad sun for the final Test, the casualty list was growing. At the press conference at Motera there were hoarse voices and constant coughs all around. Dravid was missing as Chappell addressed the press. On the eve of the match he gave in, complaining of nausea and weakness. He was diagnosed as suffering from gastroenteritis. For the first time ever in his 94-Test international career, Dravid had to miss a five-dayer.

Since then things have only deteriorated. With BCCIÂ’s innovative off-shore mega deals blurring the lines between home and away games, murmurs of protest from the players have been growing. As officials with dollar signs in their eyes flag Singapore, Malaysia and even USA, Sehwag spoke about too much cricket while Dravid called for a bigger gap between two series.

But there are some fiscal reasons for the Indian board believing that it can turn a blind eye to burnout. With each player being paid Rs 15 lakh — almost three times their normal match fee — for the two games against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi last month, the BCCI is in no mood to countenance sulks. With the players not organised and their unions not quite active, the Board can continue with its ‘more pay, more play’ methods.

Even better organised sports like football have had their lessons in burnout — but they’ve learned from them. After the shambles of the last World Cup in East Asia, which top players attended on the back of a gruelling club season, England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson led a campaign to change the rules. The result: this time around, FIFA has imposed a strict three-week break between the end of the domestic seasons and kickoff in Germany.

CricketÂ’s burnout cases look very similar to the plight of a certain four-year-old runner in Bhubaneshwar. The sight of an exhausted Budhia, his head wobbling, eyes blank with exhaustion but somehow trying to keep pace with his coach on a bicycle, looks familiar to those on the cricket circuit.

Source:India Sports

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 16th, 2006 and is filed under General.

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