Greed will such this game dry, Writes ROHIT BRIJNATH.
Sportsmen whine, and so do we, except when they do, it is somehow particularly annoying. For instance, when they whimper about "too much cricket,'' we respond, somewhat pettily: You get to play with a ball all day, get paid whether you win or lose, and this is tiring?
Sunil Gavaskar reportedly said recently that he would be ready to sweat every day of the year for his country. I don't doubt it for a minute. Gavaskar is not entirely inaccurate for players can be precious and occasionally absent of drive, but playing every day would make for some lousy cricket. Anyhow, elevating a game to some test of patriotism is always a trifle disturbing.
Players are not robots, you can't pump in a few litres of nationalism and a gallon of money and ask them to keep playing. They have the right to complain about "too much cricket,'' even if the odd complainant has a belly that makes you wonder whether it's more a case of "too many jalebis.''
It's not quite that batsmen will arrive at the crease on stretchers and sponsored carts bearing oxygen will be the rage at drinks intervals. Nothing that drastic. We'll just get to watch B-grade cricket.
In the recent past, Rahul Dravid has spoken about scheduling, Ricky Ponting has pleaded for it, various players' organisations have beaten their chests, and Michael Holding told Cricinfo magazine that one reason for the shortage of fast bowlers was the amount of cricket being played.
Of course, while a strong case was being built, Shane Warne, bedraggled in Bangladesh, waltzed off to England. To play more cricket!
Still, this is an open and shut case. Two-day gaps between some Tests is silly. Nine days between India finishing an emotionally exhausting series against Pakistan and commencing a challenging one against England is stupid. Seven one-dayers, twice in a season, is absurd. But it's hard convincing officials who think an ice-bath is something you give your whisky.
Australia staggered into Bangladesh so woebegone you thought they'd been hammered in South Africa. India finished England and was packed off to Abu Dhabi in the middle of its champagne, but at least the cause was worthy. What's worthy about playing Pakistan in Timbuktu, Tenerife and Toronto or wherever else officials will take this team in a bid to earn another shiny dollar?
Suits often fail to understand that part of sports' appeal lies is in the anticipation, the waiting. But they'd rather stuff India versus Pakistan down our throats till we cry "no mas, no mas." Forty years from now I'd wager the World Cup will be held every two years.
Greed will suck this game dry. It is in tennis where a too-long tour with an off-season shorter than a Federer set has resulted in tournaments resembling field hospitals. Rafael Nadal, at 19, already has overuse injuries.
Like tennis, cricket may not be a superior pursuit to what it once was, but it's a more demanding game. Players live better, but play more and play harder.
It's not merely the weariness of travel, claustrophia of media, demands on time, but the belligerence of the modern game that is shattering. The Ashes was draining simply to watch. Add to that bursts of irrelevant one-dayers (what is sport if it leaves no memory?), and inadequate recovery time, and the muscles begin a mutiny.
Already players are being rested, rotated, opting for one form of cricket, and it means that competition is being diluted. And that defeats the entire purpose of sport. Which is to see the best, at their best.