India plays a Test and three ODIs in Bangladesh starting next week. The BCCI, contrary to well-placed speculation, decided to send a full-strength Indian team for both formats. I just don't understand why.
Anyone who has followed Indian cricket even with a cursory eye over the last few months would be aware that the team has had a gruelling year with big tours and series back-to-back. From the tour of England in July-August 2014 with five Tests, to the tour to Australia with four Tests, the World Cup and then IPL, it has been non-stop.
But perhaps the problem starts the moment you mention the last of those pit stops - the Indian Premier League. That is where we are made to believe that it is not national duty, players make a ton of money and hence it should not count as part of the players' load. Doesn't that sound unfair?
It is a league started by the very board the Indian team represents and we all know that while they have very lucrative contracts with their respective teams, the league itself won't survive without these Indian stars and needs them as much as they need the money. It is not really an option for players to skip the IPL and they shouldn't be expected to either. The BCCI has been fighting to make it a proper part of the international calendar, then it must at least treat it like a proper series for its own players.
Why must we endure the very stale club-vs-country debate every time? If the BCCI fell for this, or as a pre-emptive measure wanted to avoid two days of furore if they had allowed rest to the players who wanted it, then it did its player a great disservice. Players' rotation is a hugely missing part of our outlook towards cricket. We as fans expect all our top players to play all our series which is absolutely not possible or even desirable.
The BCCI has failed to make a model of rotation in a way that makes players feel secure in skipping a series or two. And when a series like one against Bangladesh comes calling, it is no big deal if the likes of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli skip it. Players need rest for their longevity, and I'm surprised the Board doesn't actually recommend and promote it. If the board wants to suggest they treat all tours as the same then maybe that's why we don't win the big ones.
But this is only half the picture. It is also about the broadcasters demands to have top cricketers take part in the series so they can get the eyeballs, which will be low for a series like this one anyways. But isn't it the board's responsibility to do exactly the opposite? Take care of the players' rest instead of pushing them to be available for everything?
The Bangladesh tour would have been the perfect opportunity to let some of our cricketers recharge before the big series come calling and give opportunities to some others in new roles. And there is no shame in calling the Bangladesh series a smaller series. It is. It doesn't demean Bangladesh but is a true reflection of standings. All assignments can't be treated the same.
Why do we have to go up in arms if a Dale Steyn suggests a trip to Bangladesh is not his top priority? It is a reality. In tennis, as an individual player, even if you are the top seed, you have to play seven rounds in a grand slam, many of them against much lower ranked players, to win the title. But cricket is a team sport which allows rotation and rest. Why not avail of it? Why must we build an atmosphere where the players themselves can't be open about wanting to miss a series? Why must we link it to their commitment to the country? The BCCI should take a leaf out of the other boards' books and truly make rotation a mandatory part of their policy. It should be done regularly and not only when convenient.
There is a constant sense of lethargy in the way we treat our cricketers. Like in the case of the creamy layer, no calls are taken on their careers jointly. Either they are left out unceremoniously or if you are on the right side, allowed to continue till as long as they want.
Dhoni's retirement from Tests is the perfect example. He should have been sacked as Test captain long ago but wasn't and he eventually could have played for much longer if he himself hadn't quit. The whole episode showed the board and selectors are hardly in control. Respect for players and managing team health need not be mutually exclusive.