CHENNAI: Apart from pitches being the major theme of discussion during the ongoing series between India and England, the visiting team’s rotation policy has also come under the microscope with the former players criticising the need for it in a series where World Test Championship final is at stake. On Wednesday, India skipper Virat Kohli batted for the policy, saying it is the way forward if life continues to exist in a restricted environment.
In the past year or so, mental fatigue has been a common problem faced by numerous athletes during the pandemic-enforced lockdown and more so in the life in bio-secure bubbles. Though normalcy is beginning to come back with return of fans to the stadium albeit 50 per cent life of the players and support staff continues to be cocooned in a bubble during a series. It is for this reason and taking into account the players’ workload that eight members of the Test squad will be getting a breather before they join their respected franchises during the IPL.
“I feel any format of the game is the right place for rotation. No human being can possibly go on for that many games throughout the year,” Kohli said on the eve of the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad.
“Everyone needs to find windows of having some time off, having a break, especially with the bubble format, and the kind of systems you have to follow in the bubble. It can get monotonous, and it’s very
difficult to keep yourself excited about small things. These are things that need to be considered for as long as we play in the bubble.”
For England, the preparation began late last year when the selectors sat down to chalk out the plans for the tours of Sri Lanka and India. Their all-format players were rested for the limited-overs and players were given a break in between the series to go back home and come back fresh. This flexibility also gave opportunities to more players. It is an unusual, yet sensible approach under the circumstances as focus was more on the players’ mental health than from the result of the series.
On the other hand, ten of the 22 members of the Indian contingent that are playing against England entered the bubble late last August. Though players did get a five-day off in between, one cannot rule out the possibility of them breaking down at some point if the bubble-life continues to be in place.Moving forward, Kohli & Co will play the limited-over leg after the Test at Narendra Modi Stadium the series ends on March 28 and then, the IPL in April for close to 60 days.
Though the 32-year-old said that India’s rotation policy also depends on how fit the players are and how strong the bench strength is, he emphasised that “we need to keep the mental factor in the picture as well because mental fatigue could be a huge, huge factor.” “These are things that one needs to be aware of, and hence our bench strength becomes way more important, because if you have guys who are hungry, ready, who read the game well and are brave enough to take on opportunities or situations to take the team forward, then you can rotate easily,” Kohli elaborated.
“You know there are 11 more guys who are ready to win a Test match for India, or a one-dayer or a T20, and that’s exactly what we’re striving towards, and we have a clear roadmap as to where we need to go in the next 4-5 years so that our transition is not difficult at all guys are ready, people can take breaks accordingly, as and when it’s required, and yeah, we have a clear plan that we need to move forward with.”
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2012 If England win the final Test, it will be the first time since 2012 that the hosts will have failed to win a Test series.
Eye on WTC final
Even if the hosts have developed a tunnel vision under Virat Kohli, they will know what’s at stake. Avoid a loss and they will be in the inaugural WTC final against New Zealand. That’s enough incentive for one final push in what’s been a hectic month of white-ball cricket.
Things to ponder
With the fourth Test beginning on Thursday, here’s a look at some talking points...
Focus on pitch
That 22 yard piece of real estate will again grab eyeballs before, during and after the day’s play. With the visitors shot out on two turners in the last two Tests, another spinning, selectively watered track awaits them. Of that, there is little doubt.
One thing that the pitch and the pink ball has obscured is the way the visitors’ batting folded in the last five innings. They have been bowled out for under 200 in their last five innings, only the third time since 1904. If they are to avoid another defeat, they need to get better.
With Jasprit Bumrah out, Umesh Yadav will likely come in. There could be another change too. For the visitors there could be multiple changes, including Dom Bess and Mark Wood coming in.