Rest and rotation the key on Team India's gruelling UK tour

"With the current structure and the kind of structure we're competing inside, to be very honest, it's very difficult for players to stay motivated and find the right kind of mental space," Kohli said

Published: 02nd June 2021 09:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd June 2021 09:07 PM   |  A+A-

India's captain Virat Kohli

India's captain Virat Kohli (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: In Australia, the injuries turned out to be a blessing in disguise for India. As the long tour ticked away and life under a bio-secure environment started to wear out the players, fresh faces provided India a much-needed lift that gave them a historic triumph Down Under. Now, with the Virat Kohli-led side departing for the United Kingdom late on Wednesday night to feature in the World Test Championship final and five Tests against England, India are placing emphasis on keeping the players fresh - physically and mentally.

The euphoria that followed India's sensational come-from-behind win over Australia with a second-string squad overshadowed some of the things that worked in favour of them. As they kept losing players match after match, India were able to field fresh legs, who played without any baggage. 

The bowling unit, especially, benefited from it and despite losing the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the newcomers were able to keep Australia under pressure thanks to their freshness. It was in complete contrast to Australia, who played the same set of bowlers in all the four Tests and looked all but exhausted at the end of the Brisbane Test.

The pressure of living in the bio-secure environment has had a telling effect on elite athletes across the world and beginning with the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand starting on June 18 in Southampton, India have a gruelling schedule ahead of them. 

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Beginning with the five-match Test series against England that starts on August 4, the Indian players will not have any breather. After the England tour, they have the IPL beginning with just a five days' gap, which will be followed by the T20 World Cup. In the meantime, a separate limited-overs team will also tour Sri Lanka for a bilateral assignment.

"With the current structure and the kind of structure we're competing inside, to be very honest, it's very difficult for players to stay motivated and find the right kind of mental space," captain Kohli said when asked about mental balance and workload management. "So, this will definitely become a norm of the future where apart from the workloads, I think the mental health side of things will also come into the picture big time because you don't have an outlet at all in today's day and age. You are literally going to the ground and coming back to the room and you have no space where you can just disconnect from the game, go out for a walk or go out for a meal or a coffee and say let me just refresh myself and let me get away from the game a little bit." 

In that sense, the two-week break India will get after the WTC final could do them a world of good. The Indian team has remained largely indoors over the last nine months and with the Covid-19 situation better in the UK, they will not be staying in a hard bubble once the initial two-week period ends. Like in Melbourne and Adelaide, players will be allowed to step out of the hotel and with many of them taking families along, India believe it will help the players remain in good shape.

The key to it will be the rotation policy. India are carrying a 20-member squad, which means they won't be short on options. "When you have to play five Test matches in this environment in six weeks, it's no joke. Even the fittest will need a break. More than the physical part, it's the mental part like Virat mentioned. You can be destroyed mentally, being asked to do the same things day in, day out and then perform. It's not easy to recover, especially if you have had a bad day. It's important to shuffle the guys around and keep them mentally fresh because of the circumstances prevailing," head coach Ravi Shastri said.

Kohli even went to the extent of revealing that the team management has left it open for the players to approach them in case they need a rest from the game.


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