Fatigue a worrisome factor for India

Fatigue a worrisome factor for India

World Cup 2015: The long Australian tour has had its advantages but there is a flipside too

Fatigue a worrisome factor for India

It could either be mere coincidence or by design that India, like in the build-up to the 1992 World Cup, are again involved in a Test and tri-series in Australia as the 11th edition of the quadrennial bash kicks off in Melbourne and Christchurch in about three weeks’ time.

 India have been in Australia for two months now and by the time the ongoing tri-series comes to an end, they would have played in each of their World Cup venues in this country.

By logic, they would be more accustomed to the conditions here than any other team in the competition, save the hosts who anyway are not in India’s group. But then, logic seldom has found resonance with reality on the field of play.

The downside to these tours is that more often than not, fatigue creeps into players. And it’s even more draining when the results aren’t going your way despite your best output in the middle.

India have played six international matches on this tour -- six Tests and two ODIs -- and they have lost four of them without a win. Barring Adelaide and Brisbane, where the Tests effectively lasted for four days, India have stretched Australia to the fifth day in the remaining two matches. Add the two one-dayers and it’s been 20 days of sapping cricket in hot and humid conditions.

“So far it’s not there but what is important is that before you see the symptoms you cope with that,” MS Dhoni said when asked if fatigue had caught up with the Indian players. “No doubt, a four-and-a-half-month is a very long tour. Whatever said and done, staying away is tough. We have seen cricketers, within 15 days they feel homesick and they go back to their country.”

 Will India be primed for their defence of their World Cup or will they be feeling worn out and homesick? Only time will tell answer that question but past experience shows that neither Australia nor India could progress beyond the first stage of the 1992 World Cup.

It appeared both teams had stretched their sinews to the limit in the five-Test series which was followed by a lengthy triangular series, also involving West Indies. Unlike the current one, which has a maximum five matches for a team entering the final, the 1992 tri-series saw India and Australia, the finalists, play 10 matches each.

 It was simply an overkill even considering the fact that international cricket back then was a lot less cluttered than it is now. And we aren’t even talking about private T20 leagues like IPL, Big Bash, Caribbean Premier League and such. Someone like Virat Kohli, who plays in all formats and who is the No 1 batsman in the side, plays an insane amount of cricket in a year. Starting from January 2014 in New Zealand, Kohli has played 11 Tests, 23 one-day internationals and seven T20Is to the day.

That’s almost 80 days of international cricket taking into account the fact that some of the Tests lasted less than five days. Throw in two months of IPL that drains you mentally as much as it does you physically, numerous practice schedules and lengthy flights … Cricket at the highest level sucks as much out of you as if offers you.

Managing the workload of each player, thus, becomes crucial. In the two one-dayers, Kohli hasn’t looked the player he was in Tests and one of the reasons for that could be the fact that the Indian Test captain expended much of his energy trying to prove his credentials as a quality Test batsman.

“Long Test series take a lot out of you,” said Dhoni. “Four-Test series and then getting into the tri-series also... There is a lot of pressure. When you score runs, you put in a lot of effort. When you don’t score runs, you actually put in more effort than the guys who are scoring runs. It does drain you out. After that, you need a bit of a time off and then you can get into the groove again and express a bit more on the field.”

Unlike Australia, who played England on Friday without seven of their World Cup members, India can’t afford that luxury but they also can’t ignore the fact that players need to remain fresh. Towards that endeavour, in four days after the Brisbane defeat to England, India had just one optional practice session on Friday.

“We have got enough experience when it comes to playing in these conditions,” Dhoni noted. “We have been here for the last couple of months. But what’s important from now on will be to be fresh. To assess carefully as to whether we need to spend more time on the field or we need to switch off from cricket and try to be fresh because we have another couple of months that we have to spend here,” he remarked.

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