It is an issue that has been debated time and again: how much cricket is too much cricket? Players like Ricky Ponting, Graeme Smith, Brett Lee, Adam Gilchrist and Shahid Afridi have all publicly complained of being stretched to their physical and mental reserves because of the ‘play-travel-play’ matrix. And now Rahul Dravid, too, has criticised the way international cricket schedules become ever more tightly packed.
After the first India-Bangladesh Test was washed out, a frustrated Dravid reportedly asked administrators to “get the scheduling right and try to get a certain number of Tests and one-dayers” that should not be exceeded. The programming of the current series during the monsoon season is proof enough that he has a point. Even the second Test, starting today, could possibly end without a result because of rain. India have a long season ahead with hardly any break, travelling to Ireland and England, participating in the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, and then touring Australia and Pakistan, with the odd promotional match thrown in as well. That said, however, the BCCI is not entirely wrong, either, in swearing by a packed calendar for the team. After all, no cricketer would deliberately want to miss out on a match, unless prevented by injury.
True, Test matches are often played back to back and ODI series are condensed into tight timeframes. But this only highlights the need to develop a much more rigorous attitude to player fitness. Dravid himself admitted about a couple of years ago after setting a world record of playing 85 consecutive Tests since debut: “I know the cricket schedule is crammed full, but if you are fit and the mind is willing, there’s really no need to rest.” Exactly.