They are not machines

Published : Jul 28, 2001 00:00 IST

FROM one corner to another, from one continent to another, the Indian cricketers have been criss-crossing relentlessly and I am worried that there could be a major breakdown at some point in the near future.

It is indeed strange that the administrators have not bothered to spare a thought to the fact that cricketers are not machines. Even machines need rest, but the cricketers don't seem to get enough of it and are expected to perform consistently well. How can anyone be at his best all the time?

The amount of cricket being played these days defies logic. There is no doubt in my mind that there is an overdose of cricket to the extent that there is a genuine threat regarding spectators losing interest. With so much cricket to follow, I am not sure if a supporter of the game, regardless of his intensity, would be keen to watch a match every day.

There is a danger of the cricketers themselves losing their focus on the game. I have been speaking to many of the Indians who, I must confess, have been extremely uncomfortable at the thought of playing such high quality cricket at such frequency. There is no rest at all.

In cricket, or for that matter in any sport, it is not that just the players on the field feel the pressure. The mental and physical demands may vary but even the reserves become involved at every stage and in the process become part of the game. The fact that each day is spent at the ground means the players have to watch out for their fitness.

I can say from experience that motivation takes a beating when you are engaged in such hectic activities so frequently. I am amazed at the schedule the Indians have been on. Just six days to separate the tours of Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. Imagine playing cricket in such extreme conditions and yet being expected to give your best. Of course, none would like to lose his focus, but then how can even Sachin Tendulkar be expected to concentrate hard if he has to walk out to the middle almost every other day.

I would like to know the process the Board follows in drawing the schedule for a season. I am not sure if the officials consult the technical committee members. I know there is something called the Tours and Fixtures Committee which is entrusted with the responsibility of drawing the schedules for domestic cricket and overseas tours, but do they ever consult the people concerned, the players that is, before making their decisions?

Look at the state of affairs where Tendulkar is compelled to miss matches. Why should India play a tournament when it is not at its best? It is not the best team if it does not include Tendulkar and he is not in the team because he is injured. It is not that he has been hit but he is injured because of the stress of playing so much cricket. The manner in which Tendulkar involves himself, it is difficult to imagine a situation which does not get the best out of him. In a one-day match, he bowls too and that adds to the pressure on the man. The physical demands of international cricket today are tough and I was not surprised that Tendulkar took a break, even if it came because of an injury. I also would not be surprised if some more join the list this season.

The Board has been treating the cricketers like bonded labourers really, shunting them from one stadium to another. Playing Test cricket and one-day cricket, day in and day out, with the sole consideration of filling its coffers. Do the officials realise the truth that the players too have become jaded. There is little time for them to recharge their batteries. There is little, or should I say, no time to recover from injuries and failures. The players get injured but nurse them and hide them for the fear of losing his place in the side. The constant wear and tear has lethal effects in the long run, but then no one seems to be bothered.

If you are a top cricketer, it is an accepted fact that you cannot spare time for family and friends. It is all nice to say that the India cap demands you to be available all the time, but pray, in what state. Is it good to play for the country when you are not fully focussed?

With so much of international cricket around, how can you expect the players to figure in domestic cricket. Can the Board make it mandatory for the players to play domestic cricket when it is guilty of drawing up such a hectic international schedule? The rigours of international cricket, with such media glare and commercial demands, can be energy-sapping and it is just not possible for any cricketer to be fresh if he continues to play at such a maddening pace.

What surprises me is that no player, including senior cricketers, has stood up and spoken for the team. I know they talk to me and many confide in Sunny bhai but that is not the solution. Why cannot Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid collectively speak to the Board on behalf of the team? I don't understand why they take things lying down. Their complaints come in whispers, which do not help their cause at all.

Why does the Board ignore this aspect. It has to step in before it becomes late. It is a matter of giving confidence to the team. It is a matter of telling the cricketers that the officials do care for them. Cricketers are not jokers meant to entertain these officials, the so-called romantics.

Let them remember how Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble have suffered breakdowns from overdose of cricket. Tendulkar joining the list is not good news at all.

If there is talk of rotation system, it only means that there will be occasions when the team would not be at its best because you would have rested your best players. Would that be fair to you supporters or those who pay to watch the game?

True, cricketers are entertainers, but they are not puppets. And that is what the cricketers need to remind these greedy officials. I dread to imagine the scenario when India visits England next year, for we might have a new team altogether, going by the schedule over the next 12 months and the frequency of injuries suffered by the players. Mentally and physically fatigued cricketers, leading to a collective failure of the Indian team, will be a very poor advertisement for the so-called romantics in the Board.

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