Michael Vaughan recently said that the fans who bought tickets for the upcoming England-Australia One-Day International series should be given a refund as the major England stars would be away. While players deserve a breather after a testing series, the fans throng to the venues with the expectations of watching the stars in action. Nishad Pai Vaidya weighs the arguments on both sides.
It is the star power that generally pulls cricket fans to a stadium; leaving behind their day to day routine and flocking to the ground to watch the proceedings. Although they may have a sense of ‘patriotism’ to support their side, it is the presence of their favourite players that makes a compelling case. Michael Vaughan expressed that the English fans who have bought tickets for the upcoming England-Australia One-Day International (ODI) series should be given a “small refund” as the big names have been given a breather. Does he have a point?
Resting is always a burning issue and sparks debates with arguments on both sides. Whenever a player opts out of a game or two, there is always a section that believes he should have instead been on the ground. The strongest argument is that the certain player “cannot take his spot for granted” and should be there to serve his side. However, little has been said about the fans who attend games with high expectations. In that regard, Vaughan has done well to bring their case forward.
Take the example of India — where people would usually swarm to the stadiums to watch Sachin Tendulkar. During the last few years of his ODI career, he opted out of a few series and inconsequential games. That was of course done to protect him and keep him ready for the 2011 ICC World Cup. At the start of an ODI series, there was always a suspense about him being there and the crowds waited. But, in that case, the public would generally anticipate his absence given the trend. The other big players would be there to hone their skills and take on the tourists. The only time a major chunk of India’s artillery was rested was in late 2010. The major Indian stars sat out of the ODI series against New Zealand and Gautam Gambhir led a relatively under-strength side ahead of a grueling tour to South Africa followed by the 2011 World Cup.
The players do deserve to take a break when they have been on the road for a long time. The rigours of international cricket not only take a toll on their body but also the mind. Sometimes, breaks are also taken in order to recharge ones batteries for a bigger assignment. More often than not, players unwind towards the end of a season as the preceding months would have tested them tremendously. An Ashes series in particular — where there is a lot at stake — can be very taxing when compared to other duels. Alastair Cook, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann would welcome this away time.
But, the fan would certainly be disappointed. Usually, a player or two is benched, but this time, as many as five won’t be involved. Instead, the fan would watch Eoin Morgan lead a young side with Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott being the big names. As Vaughan also pointed out, England have no assignments until the Ashes Down Under and the players would get two months away from the game. Keeping the fan in mind, what could have been done is that the players could have been rested on a rotational basis during a series. There are five matches and that gives them ample opportunities to shuffle them around. Vaughan did say that he would only rest Cook and that does make sense. In fact, all of them could have taken turns and played a game or two instead of the whole unit sitting out.
This is always a pretty even handed debate and only personal opinions would push a person to pick a side. International cricket is unforgiving and managing the players is a crucial aspect of team building. Even a MS Dhoni, who has played the most number of games in the recent past, is criticised when he opts out of a fixture. There will always be suggestions to the contrary, but from a fan’s perspective, the management can take a more balanced approach.