One of the standout terms in Virat Kohli’s statement while relinquishing the India men’s T20 captaincy was workload. The ace batter cited workload as one of the reasons behind his decision.
“Understanding workload is a very important thing and considering my immense workload over the last 8-9 years playing all 3 formats and captaining regularly for the last 5-6 years, I feel I need to give myself space to be fully ready to lead the Indian Team in Test and ODI cricket. I have given everything to the Team during my team as T20 Captain and I will continue to do so for the T20 Team as a batsman moving forward,” Kohli had said.
Indeed, a glance at India’s upcoming international schedule does not promise a lot of breaks for the Indian team, who for a major part of the last year and more have been living in controlled environments, other than UK, where for the second half of the tour there wasn’t a biosecure bubble in play.
What’s the Schedule Been Like So Far?
Since cricket resumed in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, India cricketers have played the IPL (19 September to 10 November) once fully in UAE and then toured Australia, a few months that included injuries aplenty as the team dug deep. The Australia tour began on 27 November after a quarantine period and ended on 19 January.
Come 5 February, the England cricket team came calling before the highs of Australia had settled down. The England series ended on 28 March.
On 9 April, in another set of bio-secure bubbles around India, began the glitzy IPL – which was suspended in the first week of May after COVID-19 had hit the teams. The cricketers were packed off for an uncomfortable break due to the second wave of COVID-19.
After the short break, the Indian players arrived in Mumbai for eight days of hard quarantine and then followed it up with 10 more days of soft quarantine in UK before the World Test Championship Final against New Zealand in Southampton.
Once the WTC final was done and dusted, India had a break where the camp faced a couple of COVID-19 scares, before the England series, which too ended a Test early due to the novel coronavirus hitting the visitors for a second time.
And from England, India’s cricketers flew straight back into a bio-bubble in the IPL, for the remainder of the season. Once the IPL finishes, on 15 October, the men’s T20 World Cup begins on 17 October and continues till 14 November.
What’s On the Agenda Post the Men’s T20 World Cup?
Three days later, the Indian team will host New Zealand between 17 November to 7 December, for 3 T20Is and 2 Tests.
Less than a fortnight later, India will be off to South Africa for a series beginning 17 December and ending on 26 January. India and the Proteas will contest 3 Tests, 3 ODIs and 4 T20Is.
On return, the hectic schedule continues for India as they host West Indies for six white ball games in February (6-20), before neighbours Sri Lanka come calling for 2 Tests and 3 T20Is between 25 February and 18 March.
From then on in, presumably after a short break, India’s cricketers will be back to the IPL through the first part of the summer (April-May). The IPL, unlike, previous years, is likely to be a little more gruelling with 2 new teams set to join the mix from 2022.
Once the IPL is done, India and South Africa have the small matter of 5 T20Is in India ending 19 June, before they set off for England, again. India’s slated to play 6 white-ball games and a possible rescheduling of the Manchester Test.
Where’s the Time?
Clearly, the Indian cricket calendar is well packed with 21 T20I international games along with Tests and ODIs, and of course, the 'most important' IPL.
Unless the dates of the IPL next season allow it, the calendar paves the way for scheduling conversations yet again. It is highly unlikely that the India team will be able to squeeze in a two-week break in such a hectic schedule.
And that too in a World Cup year. The 2022 men’s T20 World Cup is expected to be played between October and November in Australia.
At a time when athletes across the globe are more open to the need for taking a break, the schedule makes one wonder, when and where are the players expected to recharge their batteries?
"Scheduling needs to be looked at in future, because playing in 'bubbles' for so long, two to three months, is going to be very, very difficult going forward," Kohli had said earlier in March.
"You can't expect everyone to be at the same level of mental strength. Sometimes you do get cooked and you do feel like a bit of a change. I am sure things will be discussed and things will change in the future as well,” he added.
India has 30 white-ball games and 7 Tests, apart from an expanded IPL, all fitted in snuggly between 17 November and 14 July 2022 (241 days).
Going the England Way – Rotation & Format Specific Teams
What the hectic schedule for the Indian men’s cricket team does is that it gives the selectors quite a bit of headache too. With Kohli stepping down as captain in the shortest format, split captaincy is already on the table, and the tightly packed calendar might force India to have separate teams for the formats.
India is not alien to such things, only recently did a Shikhar Dhawan-led team tour Sri Lanka for a white-ball series while the Test team was in England.
The only concern with such a policy though would be the bench strength, which India seemingly has covered – competition for places in the playing XI is probably at its highest in the present situation.
The situation paves the way for more younger players to be drafted into the Indian team. Players like Devdutt Padikkal, Chetan Sakariya, Kartik Tyagi to name a few will all be in the reckoning regularly as the rotation policies will be more relevant.
That, in turn, will allow players to focus on specific formats, and the planning to be free of any distractions, which would definitely count as a crucial aspect in preparing for a World Cup year.
The IPL has helped India unearth a few very talented players over the years and has also brought them a step closer to the highest level. And it'll be up to the new faces to show they belong, giving the team management enough food for thought.
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