It’s the schedule, stupid

There were 12 teams at the World Twenty20. Eleven of them reached the West Indies in advance. They attempted to acclimatise to the time zone, the pitches, the light – the Caribbean morning glare so different from floodlit Indian nights. They played two warm-up games, tested combinations, and did whatever it is that teams do to gee themselves up before a big event. Do guess the missing side.

The Indians were unavailable for this most elementary of pre-tournament disciplines because their entire team, as opposed to a few players, was in the IPL. It is one thing for Australia or England to absorb Cameron White or Kevin Pietersen into their set-ups, which work on in their absence, quite another for India, which cannot run at all.

There was nothing unforeseen about this situation. Gary Kirsten, a good and sensible coach, raised these issues after the debacle of the last World Twenty20. He was told to shut up. Nor were the World Twenty20 dates a surprise. They were announced last July. The Indian board, learning from the last time, ought to have done everything in its power to free its cricketers a fortnight ahead. Four days they granted. It takes 24 hours to reach the West Indies.

Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri claim that their remit on the IPL governing council is over cricketing matters, and yet they ratified a schedule like this. Shameless. No less hypocritical are the reactions of the commentators who are besides themselves when India fits in just the one first-class game on a tour to Australia.

A must-read column by Rahul Bhattacharya.

Those who must read it include the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, who was quick to rubbish MS Dhoni’s use of the IPL schedule as an ‘excuse’ for India’s poor performance at the world level  but forgot to mention that he is a paid apologist for the BCCI and the IPL; Virender Sehwag, who put his shoulder out during the IPL but maintained that the private league was great preparation for the World Cup; and even the likes of Yusuf Pathan, who failed to figure out that hitting DLF Maximums over considerably shortened boundaries and playing the best innings Shane Warne has ever seen in his life wouldn’t be of much use when it came to the world stage.

On similar lines, also read this column:

Coach Gary Kirsten’s dressing down of the team on their last day in St Lucia did not pertain to a new issue with the team. “While everybody is talking about lack of fitness now, I brought to the team management’s notice the fitness problem – not only with bowlers, but the team as a whole – last year,” says Venkatesh Prasad, India’s former bowling coach who was sacked last October, no reasons given. “It wasn’t taken in the right spirit.” Kirsten’s complaints last year weren’t taken in the right spirit either, and he was subsequently gagged.

Something similar, only much more damning, can be said of some of the batsmen’s troubles against short-pitched bowling.

“Everyone is now talking about how this started about 10 months ago,” says a current India player. “Four or five years earlier, when they first came into international cricket, even then they needed to work on the short ball. You need to practise it in the nets, facing bouncers and getting good people to bowl at you. But they don’t like facing bouncers and are upset about it.”

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11 thoughts on “It’s the schedule, stupid

  1. Pingback: Ten thousand hours « Stupidity – one at a time.

  2. C’mon guys. What would we have gained playing practice matches that we didn’t learn from the first group matches – that we won quite comfortably? As long as the practice match doesn’t replicate the playing conditions (pitch, bowling attack) what good does it do?

    • Dude, the answer to that is a book. For starters, practice matches give you a feel for the conditions. Second, you go into a tournament knowing who 8-9 of your main players are likely to be, but you need to know who the other three are — and that has again to do with the kind of conditions you are apt to be playing in. Two practice games give you the option of testing the bench; main players who are a bit off the boil get to hone their game and get tournament ready before the real thing begins. You also get to try out a couple of combinations — does three pace, two spin work or is it better the other way around, for instance? If you get these fundas sorted out in practice games, then your league phase is for tightening, and streamlining all of this — and then your team is poised for the knockout stage. If on the other hand you use league games to learn what your best combo is, you are handicapped two ways. one, obviously you can’t really experiment in a league game, because you go in needing to win — so you pick what on paper is your best combo, knowing the on-paper ‘best’ may not be the optimum for the specific conditions. Second, even if you get that lottery right, you have no time to fine tune strategies and tactics before you get into the do or die phase. If there was no need for practice matches, why on earth do you suppose the best teams insist on them — rather than giving the team more time to rest?

  3. Prem – Let’s face it. We don’t have a single stand-out quality bowler (fast or spin) in our team. And this worsens the plight of even the batsmen with a decent technique because imo, bowling machines cannot really make you fully prepared to handle pace+swing+natural bounce off the pitch…imagine a preparation for the world cup with the pace of the likes of Praveen/Vinay Kumar & a spin quality of Amit Mishra/Ravindra Jadeja bowling at the nets! Anyone who noticed this world cup can make a statement with conviction that the Afghani bowling attack was far impressive than ours (actual vs actual & not expectation vs actual)!

    IPL is definitely a big reason (fatigue & acclimatising to featherbed pitches)…so is to an extent, the inability to play shortball & the lack of fitness to move around in the field with agility…but those factors just piled along with the most important reason of all – the lack of a world-class stand-out bowler(s) & made us totally unworthy of a place in the semi-finals.

    About time the BCCI got its act together and started targeting bowlers through a proper talent scout and grooming them for international standards. Else, we have a colossal problem at our hands when our batting loses its stars (Sachin, Dravid & VVS) or/and sheen (Sehwag & Yuvraj).

  4. Prem – Let’s face it. We don’t have a single stand-out quality bowler (fast or spin) in our team. And this worsens the plight of even the batsmen with a decent technique because imo, bowling machines cannot really make you fully prepared to handle pace+swing+natural bounce off the pitch…imagine a preparation for the world cup with the pace of the likes of Praveen/Vinay Kumar & a spin quality of Amit Mishra/Ravindra Jadeja bowling at the nets! Anyone who noticed this world cup can make a statement with conviction that the Afghani/Bangladeshi bowling attack was far impressive than ours (& i meant actual vs actual, not expectation vs actual)!

    IPL is definitely a big reason (fatigue & acclimatising to comfort of featherbed pitches)…so is to an extent, the inability to play shortball & the visible lack of fitness to move around in the field with agility…but those factors just piled along with the most important reason of all – the lack of a world-class stand-out bowler(s) & made us totally unworthy of a place in the semi-finals.

    About time the BCCI got its act together and started targeting bowlers through a proper talent scout and grooming them for international standards. Else, we have a colossal problem at our hands when our batting loses its stars (Sachin, Dravid & VVS) or/and sheen (Sehwag & Yuvraj).

  5. Ravi & Sunil – they sound so like normal people without their second names. 🙂 – Both ex- captains – ratified the IPL schedule because.

    1. ESPN- STAR has not bought the rights for IPL
    2. They were regulars on the commentary box for ESS, so were jobless
    3. SONY SET MAX (MSM) – has the rights but had Charu( Ex Kicked out CEO of RCB)
    4. Ravi & Sunil – Signed up on 1 million each contract – were on this elitist governing council to be YES MEN to Modi & his bullies.
    5. In future too, they will do so for the lure of the money.

    Analysis:

    Talking shit in a commentary box is easy. The game has changed & these guys are people who did not prosper in the shorter versions of the game since they were very slow for the welfare of the state’s team. Sunil or Ravi have never scored scored run a ball score – even in domestic tourneys – so makes little sense to heed to their opinions in a game of youngsters & short durations.

    Channels should appoint people like Flemming, Micheal Bevan, Bret Lee, Mark Taylor.

  6. Excellent article. One of the saddening mutations of the IPL has been the bastardization of the formerly revered role of cricket commentators and observers. Once, responsible for speaking insightfully about the game, the IPL has turned them into used-car salesmen looking to hawk low-quality glitzy merchandise with the most ridiculous exaggerations and half-truths about the quality of cricket being played. It is laughable to hear the exclamations from Messrs Shastri and co about top edges dribbling over shortened boundaries as “monster hits!” It is apparent that they have been signed on for obscene amounts of money for this very purpose. With BCCI board members owning teams, it shouldn’t be difficult to predict the loser in the conflict of interest between sport and its monetization.

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