Give international cricketers a break
Salam and greetings.
Being in Sydney while enduring my first winter for some time makes me think about last year’s World Cup where our Pakistani boys made us proud. But it was sad to see Shoaiby hang up his boots. Rahul Dravid followed suit later that year and, most recently, Kevin Pietersen said he only wants to play Test cricket.
It makes me wonder if the schedule wasn’t packed, could legends like Brian Lara and Adam Gilchrist still be playing.
The rotation system has had its lovers and haters and was introduced in order to help players cope with the physical demands of the game and its schedule. However, if you ask most players if they’d be wiling to sit out a crucial Ashes Test or a Pakistan-India decider, I know what the reply would be.
These days, the role of a fitness trainer is to ensure that the players are 100% fit and healthy. We count how many deliveries they bowl at training, how many repetitions they perform in the gym and how long they’ve spent on their feet.
We discuss diets and provide appropriate menus to caterers. Their footwear is assessed and screened regularly by the medical staff so that we can avoid injuries.
All that data is entered into the computers in order to make sure that when they walk over that boundary line to take the field, they are roaring to go.
Managing the workload helps extend their career. In a One-Day International, a fast-bowler sprints between five and seven kilometres while in a Test, that can go up to 30km with up to 400kg of force launching through his body. That’s a huge amount for the body to cope with.
Take Mohammad Amir for example. He came in having suffered two stress fractures in his back probably because he was over-bowled by his club and domestic sides.
He hadn’t been exposed to regular fitness and strength training programmes so his body lacked the strength and endurance to cope with the rigours of fast-bowling. This is not to say that he should spend all his time in the gym and never bowl but a programme needs to be developed which works on their endurance.
Nowadays, the schedules are so packed that you seldom see an off-season or even a pre-season where players can do the necessary gym, aerobic and speed work. Even recovery has become significant, especially after long and arduous tours.
But as cricket profits from broadcasting rights and public demand, the physical demands of travelling, training and playing increase too. Some of my last tours with Pakistan included a 110-day tour of the UK and a 101-day tour of New Zealand and Australia.
In Australia, there were 151 first-class matches in 2000-01 compared to 231 in 2009-10. The incidence rate for injuries hasn’t changed much in a decade but there have been more injuries overall and a greater percentage of players missing through injury.
In Pakistan, a domestic player could play almost continuously for nine to 10 months while an international cricketer could be involved in training, playing or travelling close to 250 days per year.
The body can only take so much physical wear and tear before it decides to strike back. So now it’s important that a country has developed adequate bench strength to allow players to recover physically and mentally. During my time with Pakistan, Younus Khan, Misbahul Haq and Shoaib Malik were supported by Umar Akmal, Umer Amin, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Ahmed Shehzad. While in the bowling department, Gully, Wahab ‘Princess’ Riaz and Junaid Khan are on the rise.
I’d certainly like the option to rest and rotate players. But despite the precautions and planning, the question will remain: Had these players not been exposed to such demanding schedules, could we possibly still be watching the mastery of Lara which surely is for the good of the game.
Read more by David here.