India’s Twenty20 against South Africa – another in the long list of avoidable matches that the men in blue play – is the last match of the long 2011-12 season which has seen India go from being the world’s best Test team to no-hopers; from world champions to a team that just can’t get things right.
There have been injuries; there have been retirements; there have been humiliating losses and non-stop cricket but despite all of this – Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni thought it best to assure everyone that fatigue will not be a factor when the Indian Premier League begins in April.
“All happy,” said Dhoni when he was asked his thoughts about travelling to South Africa for four hours of slam bang action. “I don’t think fatigue will be a real factor. We all enjoy playing the IPL... that’s one format where you are not representing your country and the span of the tournament is slightly longer so you play quite a few games.”
Quite a few games... one would’ve reckoned that Dhoni had had his share of matches after playing 31 ODIs, 14 Tests, 5 T20s and 7 tour matches during a season that began on June 4, 2011. It’s a wonder that after 134 days of cricket and the travelling that it entails, our cricketers are not even tired. Supermen indeed...
Maybe the much-maligned rotation policy has managed to revive the squad for the IPL. Or maybe the IPL effect has managed to do what the physios have struggled to do and nursed our cricketers miraculously back to full health just in time for the tournament.
But is anyone surprised by Dhoni’s words?
If the players put their bodies on the line while playing for the country, they have earned the right to do the same during the IPL as well. Even Michael Clarke, who till recently shunned the tournament in favour of playing for the country, has signed on to play for Pune Warriors India. After all, the IPL is a personal choice.
However, it suddenly seems as if India’s troubles stand forgotten. The problem with the IPL isn’t the money or the format or the madness. It simply boils down to the fact that it robs players a chance of working on their game and an off-season to get stronger and fitter.
With the IPL in focus, will anyone see Suresh Raina working on his technique against the short ball or R Ashwin on his basic deliveries which are just not potent enough for Tests or Umesh Yadav on his wicket-taking form or even Dhoni on his back injuries?
Will they emerge as better players after the tournament or will they just be ‘fatigued’? They are not tired now, but after two months of madness, there’s almost no doubt they will be. They might even become better at chasing down targets but their technique will suffer as a result.
To play or not to play in the IPL is a very personal choice but if a player – any player... it doesn’t have to be the skipper -- does decide to put the country before club, it will mean that at least someone in the team had the guts to say that India comes first.