Asia Cup 2008 June 24, 2008

Kirsten seeks rotation policy for injury-prone India

India would want to preserve Ishant Sharma for the grueling season ahead © AFP

The season has barely begun for India and the coach, Gary Kirsten, has already sounded out the need for a rotation system for the injury-prone fast bowlers. With Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan ruled out at start of the tournament and Irfan Pathan rested for the next two games with a side strain, all of a sudden the threatening pace-bowling attack doesn't look so impressive.

There is no doubt the team is overworked and a big season follows - the Sri Lanka tour just after the Asia Cup, the Champions Trophy, home series against Australia and England, followed by tours of New Zealand and Pakistan. Looking at the schedule, it sounds silly to have somebody like Ishant Sharma playing almost every single insignificant ODI in the harshest of conditions. Kirsten, after a taxing three-hour training session at the National Bank of Punjab (NBP) Stadium, clarified to some extent the tired players' perspective.

"The system needs to create that [rotation policy], and it is unfair to expect the player himself to ask to be rested as he is also worried if his replacement does well, then he will lose his place," Kirsten said. "So we need a rotation system in which if we rest a bowler, and if his replacement does well he still remains the No. 1 bowler and gets his place back.

"Test cricket is tough with bowlers bowling around 25 overs a day in three to four Tests, and it is tough."

This could see Ishant sitting out an odd game, just like he did against Bangladesh in Mirpur. "We have got to be careful with the bowlers, some of these guys have played a lot of cricket and we need to make sure that they are physically fresh, fit and ready." Kirsten said. "We certainly cannot expect every bowler to play throughout the year."

It could lead to a similar scenario like that of resting Irfan even before an actual big injury happens. "He has got a little bit of stiffness, it's more of a precautionary break. We are not going to push him." Kirsten said. "We will most probably give him a break for the next couple of games so that the side strain heals well."

Meanwhile, the Indian team practised pretty merrily for three hours under the harsh sun - that too about 13 hours after their previous training session finished. The batsmen hit big, and threatened to hit the journalists watching from the sidelines, with the white ball being difficult to spot during the day. Suresh Raina even broke a glass down the ground.

Yusuf Pathan, in yesterday's practice session, worked on the reverse-sweep and switch-hit for about 20 minutes. "We are always looking at new ways of playing the game," Kirsten said. "Pick up new ideas, new shot-making, just trying to improve the game by five to 10%, and that can make all the difference. It is not something that he might do in the next game. It is some of the new things that we are trying to do, not just with him but with all the players.

"We were doing this even before this thing came up [with Kevin Pietersen employing the shot against New Zealand]. We are trying things all the time and that's the way cricket is going. We are trying to innovate and that's the way it is."

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo