How Much Cricket is Too Much Cricket?

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How Much Cricket is Too Much Cricket?

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

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et’s all agree on one thing: Virat Kohli is one of the fittest athletes in the world of cricket. Whether it is running between the wickets, throwing himself on the field or plundering bowlers with the bat, there’s 200 per cent commitment guaranteed from the Indian captain all the time. The man is playing all three formats of the game, and playing all the time so when Virat Kohli says too much cricket is hampering, let’s just listen to him.

This is not the first time Kohli has brought up the subject of how much is too much, and he is not the only one to have brought it up. Captain Cool MS Dhoni has also raised scheduling issues in the past — as have writers, commentators, and legends of the game who have also weighed in on the issue. All that they received from the acting BCCI President CK Khanna was an obligatory “We will look into it”, which is code for “We will do nothing. Deal with it.”

When workers are overworked in manufacturing, it’s a labour law issue. When employees are working long stressful hours in the service sector, it’s a mental health and work-life balance issue. When cricketers undergo physical overkill on the field, it’s just… entertainment. We expect cricketers to be robots and cricket to be like a K-serial, a show that will just keep going on and on.

We expect cricketers to be robots and cricket to be like a K-serial, a show that will just keep going on and on.

As fans of the game, we get to see only the end product of their hard work, the magic on the field. What we don’t see is how that on-field magic is preceded by a rigorous gym routine, time on the field, hours at the nets, practice games, constant air travel, long waiting hours, moving in and out of hotels. It’s not possible to travel overseas and just get down to it straightway, in different conditions, pitches and grounds. It’s a bit like preparing for CAT only to have to give CET after two days. Two different exams, two different strategies. Expectations need to be placed in context of preparations.

Cricketers are hard-coded to match the demand with supply, as the economics of the game take precedence over physical and mental fitness. The more they play, the more money they make, the more TV networks attract viewership, which attracts more sponsorship and endorsements. And they are fully aware that they only have few years at their peak to monetise. But at the end of the day, it’s the human body and there’s only so much it can take.

It’s another (and equally important) subject that the impact of too much cricket is also felt on the quality of cricket. Players aren’t physically and mentally up for it all the time and the results are evident on our screens. India toured South Africa in 2013 with seven days of preparation. We lost the ODI series 2-0 and the Test series 1-0. You would think the lesson would have been learnt, but apparently not, as India fly to South Africa just two days after the end of the Sri Lankan series.

Virat Kohli may be a run machine on the field, but one must not forget that he is human after all. Cricket administrators need to answer the big question that has plagued the game for a while: When does a lot of cricket become too much cricket?

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