New Delhi: With India’s T20 World Cup 2021 campaign to an abrupt end, a lot of questions were raised on the team’s performance, their approach and the strategy around some of the players. But it is the same bunch of players who had won against Australia in Australia, followed it up with a win against England after losing the first Test at home and making it to the World Test Championship final.

Now add the win against England in England although the final result of the series will only be decided next year when India tour the UK to play the cancelled Test match along with a couple of T20 and ODI games. As of now, India lead the five-match series 2-1 going into next year’s rescheduled Test match.

The core of the team has not changed with as many as seven players playing non-stop cricket ever since the year started. Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are pretty much all-format players and with so much time spent in the bubble, they might as well write a book on it and who knows, in the times we are living in, it can be a best seller.

Former India coach Ravi Shastri, who was part of the team in all the tours since January recently said in an interview on India Today, “I think Pakistan, we got the runs on the board. But against New Zealand, we didn’t have the daring. That doesn’t mean we didn’t give steel, that can’t disappear one day. We are talking of steel over the last five-six years that has made this team one of the greats to have played the game across formats.”

“We lacked the daring and that can happen when you are fatigued mentally. When you look at the amount of time these boys have spent in a bubble, it can happen there, like it happened against New Zealand,” Shastri said.

“You need that spark, that x-factor to kick in, and it doesn’t. This is not an excuse, but it didn’t happen that day. I’ll put my hand up and say we lacked the daring in that game against New Zealand,” Shastri further added.

Bumrah pretty much echoed Shatri’s sentiments and went on to emphasise how important breaks are for players.

“Absolutely you need a break sometimes. You miss your family. You have been on the road for six months. So all of that sometimes play on the back of your mind but when you are on the field, you don’t think about all of those things. You don’t control a lot of things. All the scheduling goes on or what, what tournament is played when. So obviously staying in a bubble and staying away from your family for such a long period of time does play a role on players’ minds as well,” Bumrah was quoted as saying during a virtual post-match press conference after the defeat against New Zealand.

The T20 World Cup disaster might have come as a surprise to many but it was something that was waiting to happen. The cricket administrators and the broadcasters need to treat the Indian players like humans and not cash cows. Milking them all around the year will eventually have an impact on their performance and with Covid and bio-bubble it makes it even more challenging.

The amount of cricket India has played since the Australia series is absolutely baffling. And some of the bilateral series’ were big-ticket events for all stakeholders. And then we have the Indian Premier League which is possibly among the top five biggest sporting events in the world.

Based on average annual revenue, IPL currently holds the fourth spot in the list of the world’s top sports leagues in 2020, according to Athletic Panda. US leagues NFL ($13 bln), MLB ($10 bln) and NBA ($7.4 bln) are followed by IPL ($6.3 bln). EPL ($5.3 bln) is next.

The T20 World Cup scheduling for India was equally ordinary as was the team’s performance, the only difference being players had no role to play in it. India started off their campaign with the Pakistan match and then played New Zealand. Anybody who understands a bit of math would know that losing both matches would mean that you are virtually out of the tournament.

Surprisingly, India would still have three matches to play in the group stages which will just be reduced to going through the motions. Exactly what happened. The Pakistan match was scheduled right at the beginning to financially gain as much as possible. And it has been a trend in recent times where India play Pakistan pretty early in ICC tournaments. The draws are made keeping that mind, or at least that is what it has been made to look like.

A ten-second slot was reportedly sold at around 25 lakh for the India-Pakistan match, almost three times more than any other match in the World Cup. For the India and Pakistan game alone, it is reported that at least a dozen sponsors were roped in by the broadcasters that helped them generate revenues in excess of 100 cr approximately, according to a report in Times of India.

The second match that India played with New Zealand was almost after a week’s break. Former New Zealand fast bowler Simon Doull came down heavily on the broadcasters, indicating the schedule was made in a way that it can make full use of the peak days. It didn’t help India’s cause either.

“I don’t know how to put this kindly, but there was a real air of arrogance around the scheduling and that is what the broadcasters wanted with involvement from the ICC as they wanted India’s fixtures around the holidays around Diwali and all that so they wanted those games at peak times,” Doull said on Cricbuzz.

“Pakistan should have been the first game, but the game against New Zealand should have been the final contest. It should have been India against New Zealand for a place in the semi-final at the end,” he added.

There is no disagreement on the fact that we didn’t play our best cricket but it is not the only reason India didn’t make it to the last four of the tournament. It is no secret that the former World Cup champions generate the bulk of ICC’s revenue and world cricket.

All the stakeholders, including the ICC, the broadcasters and the BCCI need to work together and come up with a model that ensures quality over quantity. There is no denying that India plays too much cricket and sooner or later there will be an overdose of cricket that will have severe financial implications. It needs to act and act now.