How many overs is too many overs?

Not to have both their senior bowlers Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad playing the first Test match and that too at Brisbane, which is generally a pitch where the ball comes on a good pace, was a huge mistake and England is paying the price.

Falling prey: England’s Ben Stokes is trapped lbw by Australia’s Nathan Lyon during the fifth day of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide.   -  AP

After England’s capitulation in the second Ashes Test, it does appear that the much-hyped series is going to be a damp squib once again.

In this century, England have won a series in Australia only once and have been walloped in the others. This time too it doesn’t look much different, and the Aussies seem to have too many guns for the English.

England started the series by wrong selection of their playing eleven. Not to have both their senior bowlers Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad playing the first Test match and that too at Brisbane, which is generally a pitch where the ball comes on a good pace, was a huge mistake. The excuse trotted out was that they wanted to keep fresh the bowling duo, who between them have more than 1200 wickets in Test cricket. They are also on the wrong side of the 30s and need to be looked after and not over bowled.

Workload is a modern word. One of the most untenable words especially when there is so much talk about how the modern player is so fit. Well, if he is so fit then where is the workload issue? How many overs is too many overs or when does the workload become heavy? How many runs are too many after which a batsman needs to be rested?

Ask any batsman and he will say that while his form is good, he wants to play every game. He knows very well that even in a match where he is batting beautifully and suddenly when the strike dries up and he is mostly at the non-striker’s end he will find when he gets to the batting end that fluency is not quite there, the timing has gone awry and the feet not quite getting where they were earlier. So even if he must play consecutive matches he will want to do so simply because he doesn’t want to lose the rhythm and form with a break in playing.

Workload has become like those two other unacceptable words ‘optional practice’. You give the players the option to practice or not and most will opt out including those who are in the reserves and haven’t played in the previous match. Any option about practice should only be with the coach and captain. So, if a bowler has bowled long spells or a batsman has played a big inning, or a wicketkeeper has done a lot of diving and gathering of throws then the coach or captain can tell him not to come for practice to rest and recover. That is the better way than giving the entire team the option to practice or not to practice.

Giving time off because of workload can work if the team has great bench strength like India showed in Australia and in the just-concluded series against New Zealand. There were players left out of the squad but whether they were asked or whether some of them asked not to be picked is not known but India at home is pretty much unbeatable and New Zealand without Kane Williamson and Trent Boult were never going to seriously stop India at home.

Coming to India’s tour of South Africa, the turmoil with the release of the SJN report indicting three former South African greats is certainly not going to help the home team. There is also talk about Quinton de Kock, who loves Indian bowling, not being available to play the second and third Test. That weakens a fragile batting line-up even more and presents India with its best-ever chance of winning a Test series there. If they do that it will truly be the crowning glory and complete the circle of India winning a Test series in every Test-playing country.

South Africa is the last hurdle and once that’s done then the sky is the limit for Indian cricket.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :