Limited overs cricket or limitation overs cricket ?
The last eight months saw a series of player retirements wherein players retired from Tests to focus on ODIs and T20s which they believed would help them extend their cricketing career.
It all started with Andrew Flintoff announcing his retirement from Tests at the end of the Ashes. He will play ODIs and T20Is for England but he is yet to play a limited overs’ game after his retirement. Then it was the turn of Jacob Oram to announce that his already short Test career would be coming to an end. Oram’s Kiwi teammate Shane Bond was next in line and it has now culminated in the Test retirement of Australian pace bowler Brett Lee. At the Australian domestic scene, Victorian pacer Dirk Nannes has bid goodbye to first-class cricket and will play only List As and T20s while South Australian speedster Shaun Tait has stated he is disinterested in first-class cricket though he has not explicitly announced retirement. Muttiah Muralidaran was another bowler whose body posed problems during the India Test series before ruling him out of the ODI series that followed. Thankfully he has stated he would play Tests till the end of 2010 and would quit ODIs after the 2011 World Cup.
Jacob Oram has now been ruled out of the ongoing ODI series against Australia. This suggests that limited overs may not be safe haven for injury prone bowlers and Brett Lee’s case only exemplifies it. He last bowled in a Test match in 2008 during Australia’s home summer against South Africa. He missed the LoIs against the Proteas and the Kiwis that followed and then the tour of South Africa. He made a comeback against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, then played a few matches in the IPL before going to England for the T20 World Cup. Another injury and he did not play in the Ashes. He came back in the T20 Champions League but was struck with yet another injury that saw him miss the India ODIs. The number of injuries he has suffered in his career would come to a mind boggling figure like the number of Test wickets he has taken so far.
Oram’s is case of excess workload. Before the current series against the Aussies, he featured in all the matches for his home team, the NZ Central Districts, who have qualified for the 2010 edition of the T20 Champions League. Couple this with the excessive travel and the associated jet lag and what you get is a cluttered mind that lacks focus. This acts upon the sensitive bodies like those of Oram’s and before the player figures out if there is anything wrong, he would have picked up an injury.
Lee’s case points to a case of a highly sensitive body. How else would you explain his picking up injury in the T20 Champions League, in the shortest format of the game? Clearly there is more to it than meets the eye. Lee will feature in the IPL and cricket fans will only hope he comes out undamaged for the T20 WC in the Caribbean.
What is the solution? My coach suggests to the pace bowlers in our team to focus not on pace but on line and length. On the other hand, experts and fans cry that India lacks “fast” bowlers. It is better to be an accurate fast medium/medium fast bowler who can take wickets than an express fast bowler who is highly prone to injuries. It is better to be a Glenn McGrath than a Brett Lee. A must needed solution is that of sports physicians. Given the huge workload on offer in today’s cricketing scene, a team doctor will play a crucial role in ensuring longevity of players. They can assess a body condition and tell a player how much he should exert himself. To an extent we can see the Orams, Bonds and the Lees playing till the age of 35+. Lack of such professional advice results in players straining themselves more than necessary, either picking up injuries or aggravating minor ones, in the process. Such professional systems can be introduced in tournaments like the IPL. But sadly mindless strategy breaks seem to be favoured more.