The zest for rest!


The skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, may have a point when he said that Suresh Raina needed a break, but leading international cricketers hardly play any domestic cricket these days. So are they actually playing as much cricket as is made out to be? S. Dinakar muses.

The cricket caravan travels to Nagpur for the final Test of the series. And rain greets the players ahead of the decisive match. The state-of-the-art Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium — the most modern cricket venue in the country — is decked up for the occasion.

The media box, well spaced out, has been built with care; adjoining the press enclosure are the dining hall and the press conference room. For a change, the toilets are clean.

The weather, though, threatens to ruin the party. But Rajan Nair, VCA Secretary, remains confident.

“It might rain on the first day but not on the other days. The pitch will offer encouragement to both the batsmen and the bowlers but will produce a result,” he says. A former paceman who has figured in the Ranji Trophy, Nair knows his cricket. He has also been an efficient media manager who comprehended his job in India's campaigns away from the country. Sadly, several of his successors have been found wanting.

Once again, much interest is on Sachin Tendulkar's 50th Test century. The maestro is unbeaten with a half-century on day two and almost everyone expects him to reach the milestone three-figure mark.

Former India player and now a television personality, Ravi Shastri says, “All it takes for any batsman is a ball to get out. Yet, all the flights tonight and tomorrow morning to Nagpur will be full. All the hotels will charge double the rate for the rooms. All of the media will be here.”

Tendulkar falls early on the third morning to debutant left-arm paceman Andy McKay. Amid all the excitement leading up to the day's play, one of the game's big truths is conveniently forgotten — even for the greatest of batsmen, making a Test century can be a hard job. There can be several pitfalls in an innings. A wave of disappointment sweeps through a group of schoolchildren who had come to watch a history-making hundred from the maestro. Tendulkar's dismissal would have taught them much about the journey of life.

The Test, however, swings India's with Rahul Dravid standing firm. New Zealand is outplayed.

Despite a sweeping victory, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has to answer some uncomfortable questions on Suresh Raina after the conclusion of the one-sided Test. The left-hander averages 6.5 in the series, gets out to a rash heave in the second Test and appears uncomfortable against short-pitched bowling in Nagpur.

Dhoni believes Raina needs a short break from international cricket. “He is tired, more mentally than physically. He has been playing in all three formats of the game for India. There is always the pressure to perform. He needs a break.”

The skipper may have a point but leading international cricketers hardly play any domestic cricket these days. So are they actually playing as much cricket as is made out to be?

And are Twenty20 matches as demanding physically and mentally as the ODIs and the Tests? A celebrated former India cricketer told this writer that most players could, without too much discomfort, play two Twenty20 games in a day.

In any case, Raina's problems against short-pitched bowling from the pacemen are more technical in nature than any issue on the physical and the mental front.

Look back at India's cricketing schedules of the late 70s and 80s and the side has often played back-to-back Test series of five matches or even six during a home season and then travelled abroad. And those Indian teams also played one-day matches.