## How much is too much?

by Sumit Srivastava

In the last couple of years, the Indian cricket team has played 22 Tests, 65+ One day internationals and 17 T-20 Internationals, including 14 at the two ICC World Twenty20 tournaments. Simple mathematics tells us that the team had 100+ International matches or 190+ days of International cricket (22*5 + 65*1 + 17*1 = 192) in the last 24 months.

If you are thinking that that is it with the number game, then think again. One just forgot to mention the Indian Premiere League (two editions: 44 + 49 = 93days) and Champions League Twenty20 (15 days). By using simple mathematics again, the tally goes up to 300 days (192 + 93 + 15 = 300). That is quite a staggering figure.

When this much cricket is being played then no wonder that the Indian side is battling with injuries. With this kind of schedule, certainly there will not be enough gaps between two consecutive matches/series and so if a player gets injured then certainly, he will have to miss a few games for his side.

Just give a look at the ongoing India-Australia ODI series. Virender Sehwag was out of the side for a while because of a shoulder injury he sustained during IPL-II. He made his comeback in the side but he is still not fit enough to roll his arms over.

Yuvraj Singh, fractured his finger just before the start of the ICC Champions Trophy 2009. Still he was picked in the Indian side for the ODI series against Australia before he could have been fully fit.

The Australian camp was not in a good position either as they came to India with a number of replacements for their first choice players. The remaining first choice players like Brett Lee, James Hopes, Peter Siddle were forced to make their way back to Australia due to various niggles and injuries.

What made the condition worse was the fact that the replaced players for the first choice players like Tim Paine for Brad Haddin, had to be replaced with another replacement, Graham Manou, because of the injury he sustained during a match.

Now, just take Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Shane Watson out of the Australian line up and you would find a virtual Australia ‘A’ side playing with India. The scheduling of these matches has also come under the scanner. Even Ricky Ponting said that the gap of only two days between consecutive matches was not enough.

These facts just show that the schedule is so packed that the players are not even getting time to regain their full fitness levels. On the part of players, it is seen that at times they play, hiding their injuries as they themselves don’t want to stay away from the side for too long because of the fierce competition and the long absence due to an injury may call off their careers too.

Kapil Dev, Imran Khan,Wasim Akram and many other fast bowlers had a career of 20 years. In the current circumstances, can someone expect guys like Zaheer Khan, Brett Lee, Umar Gul or others having that long a career? Overdose of cricket has shortened the players’ careers too.

Cricket brings a lot of money for sure but how much cricket can a player play round the year without risking a breakdown? There may be spectators who would not mind this much cricket being played, but for a player, it takes a lot out of him and this is the reason why the cases of breakdowns have increased.

There are questions raised about the existence of ODI cricket. ODIs took over from the Test cricket because of the novelty factor. Twenty20 is doing the same to ODIs. The number of Twenty20 matches being played, is a lot lesser than the numbers of ODIs. People are not used to watch this sort of fast paced cricket matches. That is why it works.

One does not always take the very same meal daily in one’s lunch or dinner. One may have one’s favourite dishes 7 times in a week for months or years but there will be a time when one would wish for a change, despite the dish being one’s favourite.

The same is the case with cricket, let it be any form of the cricket. The root cause of questioning the ODIs is not its format or structure, but it is overdose of the ODI matches. It has lost its uniqueness.

The cricket administrators will have to put their thinking caps on and have to check the number of matches played in a year. Otherwise we shall be compromising with the quality of cricket and it will have a very pernicious effect on everyone i.e. the spectators, the players and the game itself.

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