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India vs England Test: India's workload (mis)management

Since the start of the series, India have not been able to rely on the services of Shreyas Iyer, K L Rahul, or Ravindra Jadeja with any degree of certainty. Even R Ashwin missed a day’s play during the third Test due to a family emergency.
Last Updated 21 February 2024, 20:31 IST

Ranchi: Coming into this five-match series against England, India needed to check all the boxes because they were up against a beast, the likes of which they or anyone else has rarely had to face before. 

The ‘Bazball’ revolution needed attention, needed their best eggs, needed things to go according to plan, needed the team to work as a unit, needed players to remain fit…

Before the start of the series, Mohammed Shami and Prasidh Krishna were ruled out due to injuries, and Virat Kohli pulled out due to personal reasons. 

Since the start of the series, India have not been able to rely on the services of Shreyas Iyer, K L Rahul, or Ravindra Jadeja with any degree of certainty. Even R Ashwin missed a day’s play during the third Test due to a family emergency. 

All the aforementioned cases, however, are acceptable at the surface level, but Jasprit Bumrah sitting out the fourth Test in Ranchi because of workload management. Really?

“…the decision was taken keeping in mind the duration of the series and amount of cricket he has played in recent times,” said a Board of Control for Cricket in India release on Tuesday night. 

So, India’s best bowler in this series even if all prior accolades are ignored, is going to sit out a game which could give India an unassailable 3-1 lead. 

It’s not that Bumrah should not be rested, the timing of it is what is unsettling. 

Say, India play pacer Mukesh Kumar or Akash Deep to supplement Mohammed Siraj, India will still not look as threatening as they would should Bumrah be around. After all, he has picked 17 wickets this series at an average of 13.64

The alternative, which seems very plausible at this moment, is for India to play one seamer in Siraj and bring in Axar Patel to play a four-pronged spin attack, including R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.

Either way, the dynamic changes, and that could well be the difference between closing out the series and leaving it for the fifth Test in Dharamsala. 

It’s anyone's guess what metrics the medical team uses to ascertain when a player should be rested, but whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to serve Indian cricket well when it comes to crunch games of this nature. 

Besides the fact that Bumrah has bowled under 81 overs in the three games so far, he has also had a 10-day break between the second Test in Visakhapatnam and the third Test in Rajkot. Even after this Test, the team will get about a week's rest. Is that not enough? 

Looks like the management reckons it isn’t, but that does beg the question, how much cricket has Bumrah played in the last six months since his return from a back surgery?

After an 11-month rehabilitation process, Bumrah returned for India’s tour of Ireland. He bowled four overs in two completed matches as the skipper of the Twenty20 International side. 

Then came the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka where he bowled 17 overs in three matches.

He featured in India’s pre-World Cup games against Australia and bowled ten overs in the two which he played in. 

The World Cup was the first full series he got the chance to play, and he sent down 91.5 overs in eleven games with 20 wickets at an average of 18.65. 

Since then, he skipped the white-ball series against Australia and South Africa as his focus switched to red-ball cricket. 

In the two Tests against South Africa, he bowled 48 overs for 12 wickets. That brings us to now.

So, since returning from the injury, Bumrah has bowled 266.1 overs across two T20Is, 16 ODIs and five Test matches. That’s 1597 deliveries in 188 days.  

If that’s too much cricket then perhaps it’s time to look at why India’s bowlers need so much protecting. 

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(Published 21 February 2024, 20:31 IST)

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