New Delhi : As the caravan of India men’s home schedule moves towards the T20Is against New Zealand, one can start to be optimistic about how their ODI form has begun in a home World Cup year.
In ODIs against Sri Lanka and New Zealand, India were able to register identical 3-0 sweeps, despite some situations where it felt like the match was out of their grasp, they maintained their stronghold on visiting teams in their own backyard.
The batters, including captain Rohit Sharma, have been able to get big runs, while the bowlers, led by Mohammed Siraj and Kuldeep Yadav, were amongst the wickets and bowled decisive spells.
Despite the start, one cannot ignore the fact that in a packed cricket schedule, the fatigue factor looms large and last year, one saw the Indian team struggle with injuries to a lot of players, especially with some of them spending a long time on the sidelines.
In 2021, the Indian team entered the Men’s T20 World Cup in the UAE just a couple of days after the second half of the IPL ended and losses to Pakistan as well as New Zealand in Super 12 meant their campaign was over before it was officially finished.
Though many had insisted that time that playing the IPL in the UAE would turn out to be fabulous preparation for the T20 World Cup in the UAE, India’s performances in the tournament, with a lack of energy and intensity, didn’t seem to back that theory up, which was seen as a deja-vu of what happened in the 2009 and 2010 T20 World Cups.
To make matters more hectic, a majority of the members of the Indian team at the 2021 T20 World Cup were also in a bio-bubble in England for four months which included a World Test Championship final in June and four matches in the Test series against England (fifth Test was cancelled and rescheduled for July 2022).
As India’s run in T20Is in 2022 and its performance in the T20 World Cup in Australia showed that it is one thing to do well in the bilateral series and another thing to replicate showing in the ICC global tournaments, the recent performances in ODIs against Sri Lanka and New Zealand can give some hope to fans about a good showing in 2023 World Cup.
But one can’t help wondering about the fatigue factor, which exists physically as well as mentally and how decisive it can become in the run-up to the mega event.
India’s schedule till the 2023 World Cup kickstarts in October has three T20Is against New Zealand, then four Tests and three ODIs against Australia at home, followed by nearly two months of the IPL.
After a gap of a few days, a potential World Test Championship final may happen in June, followed by an all-format tour of the West Indies. Then India will play 50-over Asia Cup, whose venue is yet to be decided, followed by three ODIs against Australia at home before the World Cup arrives.
Though the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said on January 1 that the workload of key players in the World Cup scheme of things will be monitored when they will be with their respective franchisees during this year’s IPL by the National Cricket Academy (NCA), it does give a ray of hope that the fatigue factor can be minimised in an ODI World Cup year.
“We keep reviewing these things. You can call the break we have given to some of our boys (like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and KL Rahul) in the T20 series as workload management.
Injury management and workload management are two different things, we have to keep balancing the two based on what the priority is for us in the short term considering the amount of cricket we play and ensuring that we have our big players available for us in the big tournaments.
“For the IPL, our medical team is constantly in touch with the NCA and the franchises and we see if there are any issues, we do connect with them and see what’s happening.
If any of the big players are injured or if there is any concern, of course, the BCCI has a right to pull them out but if they are fit, we do release them for the IPL because it is a very big tournament for the BCCI and for us (the team) as well,” India head coach Rahul Dravid had said ahead of the third ODI against New Zealand in Indore.
With the pressure of ending a ten-year winless run in ICC tournaments, India will be expected to put their best foot forward in the 2023 ODI World Cup at home.
But for that to happen and run all the way to the elusive silverware, they need to counter the fatigue factor and be in the form which was seen in the first six ODIs this year.
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