‘Rest’ is a hoarse cry in the India men’s cricket team’s dressing room these days. Why, you ask? Let’s take a look at the upcoming schedule for the Men in Blue, now that India’s run at the T20 World Cup is over.
The India squad went on to play the T20 World Cup straight from the IPL 2021. Next, India hosts New Zealand from November 17, up until December 7. After a 10-day break, India is back on the field in South Africa for a full tour, comprising three Tests and ODIs, and four T20Is.
Once back in the final week of January 2022, India takes on West Indies for six white-ball games, after which Sri Lanka comes calling for two Tests and three T20Is – all of which get completed by the third week of March.
This, of course, is to be followed by the IPL 2022, and no, it is highly unlikely that the BCCI will change the window for the tournament, usually held at the end-May. With two new teams added to the roster, making it a total of 10 squads, the IPL will also mean more games (14 additional matches), which means there’ll be more dates on the calendar for the players to strike off before a brief break.
Once the IPL is over, India plays South Africa in five T20Is before going to England for one Test and six white-ball games from early July 2022.
How Much is Too Much?
Mind you, since cricket returned in the pandemic, the Indian men have played the IPL behind closed doors in UAE, then exchanged wins for bruises in Australia before welcoming England at home for a full tour which ended on March 28, 2021.
As the calendar turned to April, IPL 2021 was back. The forced break due to the nationwide Second Wave of COVID-19 came on May 4, but by the end of the month, players were back to the repetitive routine as the long England tour beckoned.
Travel, fatigue, and the restrictions of life in a bio-bubble have all taken a toll on the Men in Blue. India’s poor show in the T20 World Cup can squarely be blamed on a simple phrase: “Too much cricket!”
Captain Virat Kohli, ace pacer Jasprit Bumrah and former head coach Ravi Shastri have all made it amply clear that long tours and schedules need to be re-examined, especially in these unprecedented pandemic times.
After the defeat against New Zealand, Bumrah said: “Sometimes you need a break. You miss your family. You’ve been on the road for six months. Obviously, staying in a bubble and staying away from your family for such a long period of time does play a role in your performance.”
Kohli spoke about this at length in Pune after the England series, while Shastri was his usual straight-talking self in Dubai after India saw off Namibia at a canter. Kohli had expressed his concerns well before 2021 rolled on, during the IPL in UAE in 2020, noting that the “repetitive” nature of being in a bio-bubble can be mentally tough on cricketers and that length of tours need to be considered in a world battling COVID-19.