With Gautam Gambhir virtually ruled out of the upcoming West Indies series, it is about time the BCCI reviewed its player management system, if there is one. Quite likely that PMS does not exist in the dictionary of our cricket administrators.
Over the past couple of decades, the Board's focus has been on revenues and not so much the welfare of the cricketers. The BCCI perhaps believes that a crore here and a crore there will keep the players happy and healthy.
The fact is that the warning cone has been hoisted. Look at our senior cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, M S Dhoni, Zaheer Khan and their ilk. For them, it is an effort to even pick the bat or ball, much less play a game, even a T20. No doubt, they have been rested for the West Indies ODI series, but even before they can begin to enjoy some free-time, it is time to repack the bags for the long haul to the Caribbean and then later to England.
As we get to the business end of the IPL, almost every player appears jaded. In the past few days, I have heard from various sources that a majority of the players are already complaining of aches and pains with all the travel, the constant pressure and intense cricket. Of course, they are well paid for their efforts, but in the long run, fatigue is bound to affect their game. So the franchises end up coughing up serious money that is not commensurate with performance.
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To top it all, the BCCI is now bending its back to have a fourth IPL team in the Champions League that is to be played soon after the Indian team returns from England later this year. A qualifying event is being planned to identify the CLT20 line-up. For God's sake, aren't we having enough of this slam-bang stuff without another competition being thrust on us?
By all accounts, the signs of an over-kill of cricket are there to be seen. The TV viewership has dropped dramatically, and the slow and low pitches at the end of an Indian summer have not been conducive for quality cricket with the batsmen struggling and every bowler looking better than he actually is. The stands are half-filled.
That being the case, not just the BCCI, but also the ICC and more importantly, the FTP should get their thinking straight to ensure there is indeed an off-season for every cricket-playing country. But sadly though, with one eye on the millions of dollars through TV rights, our administrators are simply blind to reality.
As for the players, not many have the luxury of "opting out" of a particular series, because there is no guarantee that they will get their place back in the Indian team. The young guns like Kohli or Raina might proclaim that they want to play more cricket, but seriously, can they afford to say anything different with so much money riding on them and the "big brother" BCCI monitoring what they say and do?
Hence we hear the usual piffle from Tendulkar downwards that everything is hunky-dory until we land up with a Gambhir-type situation where a player is forced to hide his injury and continue playing with endless doses of pain-killers over six week! But then, KKR would not have had it any other way since they paid 2.1 million dollars to buy him at the January auctions. So, it is: We pay, you play.
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In this respect, the Aussies are far more sensible and ensure that their players are given sufficient time to rest and recuperate. But try telling that to the BCCI and they will merely thumb their nose at you. Thus, we have a ridiculous situation wherein you have no time to savour a victory or analyse a defeat because you are already flowing into the next series or game.
Simon Garfunkel's lyrics come to mind: "Slow down, you move too fast; you got to make the morning last…" But who is to tell our cricketing bosses? BCCI might rightfully claim that they are among the richest sports bodies on the planet, but then, money is not everything, or is it?
The point is that they need to strike a balance between playing and preserving players. Yes, all humans have greed in them, but this is about an organization running a sport. It is about time then that the BCCI displayed a touch of humanness in their dealings. At the moment, the BCCI is insensitive to criticism and even a well-intentioned critic becomes a pariah.
Gambhir was injured at the World Cup and yet he carried on, unmindful of possible long-term damage to his shoulder. Not sure whether the BCCI was aware of it since the good team physio happened to "discover" the injury only a couple of days back! Can anything be more nonsensical?
More columns of Anand Philar