Are the players playing too much cricket? Are they tired and mentally sapped? A quick glance at the international schedule, packed with all formats of cricket, would convince most that there is too much cricket.
A closer look would, however, present a slightly different picture. Yes, there is a lot of cricket, there are matches that are meaningless but should there be a rollback to give breaks to players? There is no clear answer nor consensus on the best way forward.
The other day, when Kevin Pietersen opted out of 50-over cricket, he cited age (he is 32) as a reason, and said he wanted to focus on Tests. Fine, KP needs a break to preserve his body, so he chooses to get off the relentless treadmill that otherwise does not allow rest. But his case is in contrast to that of teammate Stuart Broad, who publicly announced that he does not want rest.
In Broad's case, the selectors wanted him to step aside to miss the West Indies Tests, and be ready for tougher battles later against South Africa and Australia. Broad rejected this suggestion, arguing that he was in fine nick, so why sit out. Obviously, there is no one, or correct, answer to the issue, and each country and its cricketers have to find the right balance between playing enough and not playing too much. If the choice is left to a player, it is unlikely anybody would proceed on a holiday while his teammates are competing.
There are serious financial issues involved, not only in terms of fees/allowances, but also with sponsor bonus and endorsements. And if the player who replaces you makes it big, then you are gone. Why would anyone commit suicide?
While this is a pragmatic response, the challenge lies in finding a middle path that works for the players and yet, ensures that the best players are available, in peak condition, when it matters. Eric Simons makes a pertinent point about player workload and the attendant issue of injury and burnout. “This must be addressed, especially for fast bowlers,” he insists. “Carefully planned rest can significantly boost performance. We gave a calculated break to a player, he came back fresher and younger.”
The writer is a Delhi Daredevils official