Exclusive: IPL a disadvantage, India won't be fresh for World Cup, says Roger Binny
Just a couple of months away from the 2019 World Cup, international fixtures have almost dried up, making way for the flamboyant carnival named the IPL. The timing, as well as the resultant workload on players, has been frowned upon by experts and fans alike, but the festival continues in its own merry ways.
India's fortunes at the global event, starting May end, have several shoulders to rest on. The batting, at least on paper, looks a million bucks, and the newfound spring in the pace department complemented well by spin, makes for a settled squad.
The team seems well prepared, but is it well rested for the marquee tournament?
Former India allrounder Roger Binny doesn't think so. "We have tried a pool of players, but when they get to the World Cup, they will not be as fresh as they should be," he believes.
The 63-year-old, one of the pillars of the 1983 triumph, told Sportskeeda at a recent event that the IPL and the arduous series in the lead-up to the mega event are bound to leave the players exhausted.
"I think the disadvantage for our team is the IPL. We've already played a lot of cricket, and are unnecessarily playing series, like the one against West Indies. But, they still have to manage,” Binny added.
While the words 'workload management' are thrown around pretty often, there are questions as to whether there is a proper system in place to ensure Indian players are rotated well enough.
From the Champions Trophy 2017 till the start of the IPL in 2019, seven out of ten players who have played the most ODIs are Indians. Three of them, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni, have played over 50 ODIs in this period. Rohit and Dhawan lead the T20I tally as well.
Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah have been rotating themselves well, and a Test-retired MS Dhoni needs ample match practice, but is it really the case with the rest of the squad as well?
Another worrying sign is the management of player injuries.
Controversies (and Vijay Shankar) might have stolen his thunder a tad, but the allrounders' department still has a key representative in Hardik Pandya.
His game is expected to be facilitated by the English conditions, starting June. In the same host country, he did not have a breakthrough 2017 Champions Trophy with the ball, but his frenzied batting style found many takers, re-affirming his spot in the ODI team.
Two years later, Pandya still holds on to that spot, albeit with a loosened grip.
Apart from his forced suspension, Pandya's time away from the game has been the result of several injury halts, specifically due to his worrisome back. And he walks into the IPL half-baked after missing the Australia series.
A recent report in the Hindustan Times had stated that the ill-handling of Hardik Pandya's back injury hadn't gone down too well with the BCCI. Pandya was declared fit after rehabilitation, but broke down again ahead of the Australia tour.
When asked about the increased load on Pandya, a fast-bowling allrounder just like the World Cup winner, Binny said that it is important for players to be afforded adequate rest ahead of long tournaments.
"You can’t say 'I am unfit, I am tired'. As a cricketer, you have to manage that. You have to be honest with yourself and your body. You can only take so much. It can't go beyond that".
"There are teams like Pakistan and New Zealand who have had a lot of breaks. The players are going to enter the World Cup fresh. That is the area where we need to improve".
A Pandya breaking down during the World Cup could be a body blow for the Indian team, given the already scarce resources in the allrounders' section and the balance he brings to the table.
The image of him being stretchered off the field during the Asia Cup game against Pakistan last year still seems pretty fresh. So does that of Kohli struggling with a bad back in England, and that of Kedar Jadhav hobbling with a pulled hamstring during the IPL last season.
Indian fans will be hoping that the players, as well as their World Cup dream, stay in one piece before the team actually sets foot in England.