On the road in bubbles for months, Team India welcomes unusually long break before New Zealand game
Time is a luxury if you are an Indian cricketer. The calendar ticks by faster than a cab meter. And ‘free time’ is like a sprinkling of drinkable water in the middle of a desert.
At the moment, this set of 15 cricketers in the UAE could barter anything to squeeze out some time for a breather. Form, fitness and combinations aside, all the Indian team would have wanted was some time to revitalize going into a high-octane, emotionally-charged match like the one they played against Pakistan on Sunday night.
As the match wore on, the jaded Men in Blue fell behind with each passing over. The result: A 10-wicket defeat. As much as the defeat would hurt, these players would have heaved a sigh of relief knowing they will be next playing after a week against New Zealand on Sunday. That’s an unusually long break between two matches for a tournament as compact as this. “We will have time to reflect,” captain Virat Kohli stated after the loss to Pakistan last Sunday.
Kohli has been vocal against the hop-off-flight-hop-into-stadium itinerary that his team has been subjected to for the past few years. His words have always been deafening but they invariably fade away in front of the monstrous – and multiplying — market noise.
“It (this break) works really well for us from all point of view knowing we have played a full-fledged season already. We have played the IPL which is a high-octane by itself in testing conditions in UAE. These big breaks are going to help us as a team to be in the prime physical condition that we need to be to play this high-intensity tournament,” Kohli’s iteration shows how much they have craved for every minute for their muscles and mind to relax.
The Indian cricketers have been hoping bubbles for 15 months now. They are living in a parallel universe which only has windowpanes for a view of the ‘usual life’. Even before the pandemic, the board had started pulling all resources and splurging on every technology to optimize the load on the bodies of these cricketers. ‘Workload management’ became the single most important phrase behind the sustainability of high-quality cricket this team played. Of late, there has been little room for the revered ‘workload management’. There has been no official service provided by the board to address the mental health of these players.
Momentum is said to be the defining factor in a marquee tournament. Players prefer to be in the middle of the action. It gets the adrenaline pumping. You certainly don’t want to get to a point where you have to restart the engine and wait for it to get warmed up. Except, Virat Kohli’s men are in a dire need to give their overworked and overheated engines some time to cool down, refuel and get running again without worrying much about breaking down again.
“The week’s break will help us regroup as a team. Get to the practice eager to execute the things that we want to prepare and arrive confident on the day again. We have enough confidence in our ability that with this preparation time we will come out once again being in a positive frame of mind,” added the skipper.
The panic button is never an option in high-performance sport, but a reset button never hurts. It’s time to think about the combinations, plans and the method. The team management has had no time to absorb the uncertainty around Hardik Pandya‘s availability as a bowler.
The pitch behaves differently with the dew around. The spin-heavy squad needs a rethink. There’s Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami, the face of India’s fast bowling revolution, running up and down with high intensity for five months. BCCI, NCA have invested huge amounts of time and resources to make sure these two assets are ready to take the field across formats. As Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar struggle to hit top form, Bumrah has to endure the load of the attack now.
Picking up an abandoned IPL season, the players have been literally playing in a furnace for over a month in the desert with the heavy-spending franchise hovering over their heads and then the unworldly pressure from the passionate fans back in the country by the time the T20 World Cup came around.
Perhaps, the tournament would start afresh for India this weekend!