Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Too much cricket, really?

The suspense over MS Dhoni's participation in the Sri Lanka series will be over today, when five wise-men sit together to pick the squad for the series. However this has brought the issue of excessive cricket in the limelight again. During the Asia Cup also Dhoni had raised his concerns about too much cricket. Although Dhoni is the only Indian cricketer to speak openly, most of the Indian cricketers admit in private that the amount of cricket is taking its toll both on their body and performance.

Indian players are playing non-stop cricket this year, which started with the Test series against Australia (in fact Indians were already in Australia at the start of the year). The Test series was followed by a ODI trie-series. Soon after India were facing South Africa in India for a three-match Test series. No sooner this series was finished, the Indian Premium League started. Had the Kanpur Test gone onto scheduled fifth day, there would have been only two days time for the players to pack their kit-bags,join their respective IPL teams and start with a totally new format of cricket. The IPL was highly successful but for players it was highly draining as well as they were left to fly all across the country on every alternate day. There was no respite for the cricketers when the final of IPL was played on June 1st, since within a week India were playing a meaningless ODI tri-series in Bangladesh, then the Asia Cup.....and now series against Sri Lanka. This is a vicious circle and no one knows if there is any end to this.

Series played by Indian cricketers in the year 2008

India in Australia 20 December to 4 March
South Africa in India 26 March to 13 April
Indian Premium League 18 April to 1 June
Kitply Series in Bangladesh 8 June to 14 June
Asia Cup in Pakistan 24 June to 6 July

Note: In addition some players also appeared for their respective sides in domestic cricket.

It will be interesting to see the amount of cricket played by Indian players this year.A total of 26 players have played some kind of international cricket (Test / ODIs / T20Is) for India in the year 2008. The following table lists all such Indian players in order of total number of days spent by them on the field this year. For this purpose,we have included all 'important' matches played by them. The table below shows the number of days a player spent on the field during Tests, ODIs and T20Is and IPL. The 'other' column includes important domestic matches and matches on tour.

Indian players - No.of days on the field in the year 2008

Player ODIs Tests T20Is IPL Other Total
MS Dhoni 19 25 1 16 3 64
Virender Sehwag 13 20 1 14 5 53
RP Singh 6 22 0 14 7 49
Yusuf Pathan 7 0 0 16 24 47
Irfan Pathan 16 12 1 14 3 46
Gautam Gambhir 19 0 1 14 12 46
Ishant Sharma 13 17 1 11 3 45
Rahul Dravid 0 25 0 14 5 44
Wasim Jaffer 0 20 0 6 18 44
Yuvraj Singh 17 8 0 15 3 43
Sourav Ganguly 0 25 0 13 3 41
Harbhajan Singh 10 21 1 3 3 38
Rohit Sharma 19 0 1 13 5 38
S Sreesanth 9 11 1 15 1 37
Sachin Tendulkar 10 19 0 7 0 36
Piyush Chawla 8 3 0 15 10 36
Suresh Raina 9 0 0 16 10 35
Praveen Kumar 11 0 1 13 10 35
Robin Uthappa 13 0 1 14 5 33
VVS Laxman 0 25 0 6 1 32
Anil Kumble 0 22 0 10 0 32
Pragyan Ojha 3 0 0 13 16 32
Munaf Patel 3 0 0 15 8 26
Manpreet Gony 2 0 0 16 8 26
Dinesh Karthik 0 0 1 13 9 23
Manoj Tiwary 1 0 0 9 6 16

MS Dhoni is there right on the top, which justifies his outburts against the BCCI. Both Pathan brothers are in top five (Yusuf's name is surprising but he has played a lot of domestic cricket when he was not performing national duty).

It is just not the number of days on the field that drains the players, add to this the frequent flights from one venue to the other, a few day's gap between two games when the players keep on sweating it out on the field and the picture becomes horrible.

Everyone will agree that this amount of cricket is simply too much, but do the players really need rest? How many cricketers actually use a welcome break to relax / spend some quality time with the family or sort out flaws in their game. Haven't we seen how most of the cricketers (Dhoni included) run to grab a chance for a commercial shoot or to cut ribbon to inaugurate a saloon whenever there is a break from the cricket? Doesn't it involve hectic travelling? But no, you won't hear any complaint from any of the players. Because it is free-money and only a fool will let go an opportunity to make free-money. 'We are tired of playing, but ads are always welcome', this is the kind of impression players are giving.

So,what is the remedy ? One may like it or not, but the Cricket will be played at this pace only, now that all the commercialism has settled in. The best thing for BCCI will be to create a pool of players and rotate the players on regular basis. This is the need of the hour.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

An Ajantha Mendis Show

Ajantha Mendis turned the game on its head when it looked like that the Indians will achieve the modest victory targetof 274 quite comfortably. Introduced after nine overs, when India were cruising at 76 for one with Virender Sehwag hitting everything as per his wish, Mendis changed the projection of the game with his double strike in the first over and from there was no respite for the Indian batsmen, who looked totally dumbfounded while facing Mendis.

The fact that not even a single boundary could be hit against Mendis clearly shows how flabbergasted Indian batsmen were against a novice.

Mendis’ figures of 6 for 13 are now the third best by any bowler against India after fellow teammate Muttiah Muralitharan and former Pakistan seamer Aaqib Javed. The following table lists the best bowling performances against India:

Best bowling figures against India

Figures Bowler Venue Year
7-30 M Muralitharan (SL) Sharjah 2000
7-37 Aaqib Javed (Pak) Sharjah 1991
6-13 BAW Mendis (SL) Karachi 2008
6-14 Imran Khan (Pak) Sharjah 1985
6-19 SE Bond (NZ) Bulawayo 2005
6-27 Naved-ul-Hasan (Pak) Jamshedpur 2005
6-29 BP Patterson (WI) Nagpur 2001

Mendis’ performance is now the best by any bowler rolling his arms over for the first time against India. West Indian pacer Patrick Patterson held the previous record. The details:

Best bowling figures on first appearance against India

Figures Bowler Venue Year
6-13 BAW Mendis (SL) Karachi 2008
6-29 BP Patterson (WI) Nagpur 1987
6-39 KH MacLeay (Aus) Nottingham 1983
5-22 AR Adams (NZ) Queenstown 2003
5-29 AA Donald (SA) Calcutta 1991
5-32 WJ Cronje (SA) Cape Town 1992

Mendis’ figures are also the third best by any bowler in a tournament final as is detailed in the following list:

Best bowling figures in tournament finals

Figures Bowler Opponent Venue Year Tournament
7-37 Aaqib Javed (Pak) v Ind Sharjah 1991 Wills Trophy
6-12 Anil Kumble (Ind) v WI Calcutta 1993 Hero Cup
6-13 BAW Mendis (SL) v Ind Karachi 2008 Asia Cup
6-59 A Nehra (Ind) v SL Colombo (RPS) 2005 Indian Oil Cup
5-14 WPUJC Vaas (SL) v Ind Sharjah 2000 Champions Trophy

Although it is too early to say, Mendis has shown that he has the potential to be one of the most successful bowlers on the international scene. Already he has taken two five-wicket hauls in his 8 matches. His tally of 20 wickets is second only to West Indian Ottis Gibson after exactly 8 ODIs.

Most wickets after 8 ODI matches

Wkts Bowler Avg SR Econ 5W
21 OD Gibson (WI) 16.38 19.95 4.93 1
20 BAW Mendis (SL) 10.25 16.80 3.66 2
20 SE Bond (NZ) 15.65 22.30 4.21 0
19 AB Agarkar (Ind) 19.42 21.32 5.47 0
18 CG Rackemann (Aus) 16.83 23.89 4.23 0
18 SK Warne (Aus) 12.11 23.33 3.11 0