Dhoni's men fly 15 hours for a three-hour game before rushing back home for IPL!

Captain MS Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher address a press conference on Wednesday upon Team India’s arrival at Tambo International Airport, ahead their Twenty20 match against South Africa. The Indian team has featured in 14 Tests, 31 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and five T20s. On return, the players will plunge into the near two-month long IPL © Getty Images

By Karthik Parimal

 

India’s decline since the 2011 World Cup is hard to believe. They had a very tight schedule before the quadrennial championship, but the burning desire to win that coveted cup kept Team Indian moving forward. That World Cup ended on a highly successful note for India. Thereafter, in a span of just one year, India has featured in 14 Tests, 31 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and five T20s – clearly a case of excess cricket.

 

Nevertheless, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has managed to flummox many, yet again, by its decision to send a weary Indian side to play a one-off T20 fixture against South Africa barely a few days after the Asia Cup ended. Also, the decision is all the more unfathomable keeping in mind that the Indian players will have to immediately take part in the Indian Premier League (IPL) upon their return. The one-off game between India and South Africa, to be played on Friday, is part of the Future Tours Program (FTP), but there is no getting away from the fact that the scheduling of this one game amid a hectic schedule is still jarring.

 

The hectic schedule since April 2011 will undoubtedly leave most of the regulars in the Indian side quite exhausted. South Africa, too, would have just returned after their long tour to New Zealand. Hence, it is difficult to understand how this one-off T20 will benefit either India or South Africa. The overdose of cricket has already resulted in almost empty stands all around the world, and such meaningless matches are not going to help remedy the situation in any manner.

 

The administrators are doing more harm than good by arranging such matches and are increasing the chances of a player burnout. A few of the Indian players have almost reached that point. Not many bowlers in the recent past have been able to play for three to four tournaments consecutively. A plethora of series involving a lot of travel has left the bowlers injury prone. Moreover, a few players in the squad heading to South Africa have been part of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Tournament which concluded just a couple of days back. Devoid of any rest, these players will now have to immediately get on a plane to South Africa to participate in an event that will last for just a little more than three hours.

 

Also, it is difficult to comprehend why a 15-man squad was chosen for this one-off T20. Three of the 15 players will probably have no part to play in this game and would have unnecessarily made a 15-hour trip just to warm the benches. It is hard to imagine how the three extra players will benefit from a one-off slog-fest by watching the proceedings from a dugout.

 

Interestingly, this one-off T20 match has bewildered not just the Indian supporters but also the IPL franchises. It most certainly hampers their preparation going into the tournament. The fact that the players will not be available for at least four days, just a week before the start of the IPL, does not augur well for the franchises. Almost all the players from both India and South Africa are expected to take part in the IPL this year, and they will have absolutely no time to acquaint themselves with the team or the conditions.

 

No doubt that the IPL itself is a big contributor to insignificant cricket, but this in an event that had been planned well ahead and everyone was aware of the same. Keeping the IPL in mind, asking the players to travel half way across the world just four days prior to it, play an international game for three hours, and then return to play a gruelling tournament that lasts for close to two months is not just absurd but also taxing.

 

While the highlight of the evening will no doubt be Jacques Kallis’ well-deserved felicitation ceremony, one wonders if the stage is right considering the fact that it comes at the back of a meaningless match played by a bunch of exhausted players. Last year, Makhaya Ntini was honoured for his tremendous contributions, and the timing seemed right because the T20 was played after an exciting Test series, and a five-match ODI series that was yet to begin. This time though, one wonders if the event will assume any significance.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)