Is there any point in making an effort if the pursuit of excellence takes away the joy and celebration of living? Watching listless, tired Indian faces running around the field in searing heat and humidity during the Asia Cup in Pakistan could not have been too enjoyable for the spectators.
It was obvious that too much cricket was taking its toll on the limbs and minds of the players and it was no surprise when Mahendra Singh Dhoni put his hands up and articulated what every player wants to say Please, don’t push us to the limit. We’re not supermen, we need rest too.
The reaction from the Board was swift and along expected lines. “If any player wants rest, he is free to do so.” This showed the arrogance of the BCCI and the little concern it has for the players. Dhoni — he needs to be admired for this — went a step ahead and withdrew from the Sri Lanka Test series.
The cynical view would be that the same players did not express their displeasure when it came to playing non-stop for 44 days in the IPL, especially as the tournament came immediately after the gruelling Australian tour. The money on offer was huge and does it not boil down to playing for the highest bidder and not worrying about your physical state if the compensation is huge?
This can be an argument hard to refute but let’s not forget that the money and temptation is coming not from outsiders but from the same people who are responsible for the good health of mainstream cricket.
Why, in the first place, create a situation which pits international cricket against a club league where the difference in the money paid to players is mind-boggling? Even saints have found it hard to resist the lure of money, so why play such games with young men with no pretensions of acquiring sainthood?
The point I want to make is that those who govern cricket in India have the responsibility to see that the best talent is available for the country and that too in conditions that help them play at their optimum potential.
It is no secret that India would not have lost Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth for the Asia Cup had these players rested during the IPL. Their absence and playing with tired/injured players meant that India, who had done the unthinkable by beating Australia in Australia to emerge as real contenders for the world number one slot, lost two finals in succession to teams they were expected to beat.
Wasn't it the responsibility of the Indian Board to ensure adequate rest for the players before they embarked on another gruelling non-stop series of matches? Isn't it the responsibility of the Board to ensure that the spectators get to watch quality cricket, and that can happen only if the players are not physically and mentally exhausted.
You can blame Dhoni for being clever and missing out on a Test series to safeguard his "larger" interests. But don't forget that, unlike in one-day cricket, Dhoni is not indispensable in the Test side. If his replacement does exceedingly well, he might even lose his place in the team. You can then argue that had the one-day series preceded the Tests in Sri Lanka, he would not have given it a miss.
Well, one can argue on and on, but can you find fault with the issues Dhoni's withdrawal has raised?