'You've to be at your best'

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni wore a distant look when he spoke about the need for the cricketers to have a break.

India have just completed a grueling four-match Test series against England, and played two T20 matches against the same opposition. Before they could take a breath, Indians will have to face Pakistan in a series comprising two T20s and three one-dayers before taking on England in a five-match one-day series.

Let’s hear Dhoni’s thoughts on this non-stop cricket. “When there are such big series happening, I don’t think you get an opportunity in the middle of it to think of breaks. Most of the time, I personally am not even aware of what the date is. We just keep playing the games and we know there’s a match around the corner in 2-3 days,” he said. Was there a bit of resignation in his sound?

Then he went on to detail the good and ugly side of such relentless action. “If you’re representing your country, I think it’s very important to be at your best. Sometimes, the body does protest, and you know that if you don’t rest then, you might get injured. At that time, you may want to take a break and may miss a series. But overall, I don’t mind playing cricket matches, because you’ll also be with a good group.”

An Indo-Pak series is a highly sought-after in a cricket calendar, still there’s a certain lack of context to this series, partly because it has been sandwiched between the Test and one-day series against England.

Dhoni adopted the best possible stand to deal with such matches. “We don’t think too much about this. We have games ahead of us now, so no point thinking whether this should have been an ODI series, or a T20 series or a Test series. For us, what is vital is what’s there, rather than thinking we should have played three more Tests. They are not there, and not going to happen, because we don’t have time for it.”

Such low-on-intensity affairs can give a player some tough times in terms of his preparation – mentally as well as from a cricketing point of view. Dhoni found solace in the fact that they would be playing two T20 series in a row (two matches each against England and Pakistan), giving them time to adjust to the demands of the format.

“It’s difficult to prepare for as a player. The good thing about these two series is that there were a couple of matches, so you can look to get into a bit of a groove. In T20, you have to be a bit unorthodox and try a few different things. We have often seen in one-off T20 games that sides use it as a warm-up game going into the series or as an entertainment at the end of the series. Here, at least we have a few games that give us some time to adjust to the format.”

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