October 28, 2009

Burnout

The weariness of the long-distance spinner

Andrew Hughes


Hauritz: when a man’s gotta celebrate, a man’s gotta celebrate © Getty Images
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Punter probably gets a bad press, but sometimes it seems that journalists only need to poke him with a stick and then press “Record”. This week the grumbler’s grumbler has been disgruntled over the late arrival in Vadodara of the Champions League Three: Brett Lee, Doug Bollinger and Nathan Hauritz. The trio were unable to prepare for Sunday’s game of cricket because they had been playing cricket, and apparently there is no worse preparation for a professional cricketer than to be playing cricket.

The Aussie captain was particularly annoyed because whilst they were away playing cricket, they were altogether unavailable for the tactical seminars conducted by Team Australia ahead of the first one-day international. Talk of these tactics intrigued me. Were they so complicated that they couldn’t be explained in an hour or two on the morning of the match? Does Brett Lee really need to attend a workshop on how to bowl at Sachin Tendulkar?

Probably not, I thought. But then I am not an initiate in the Byzantine complexities of the great game. All us plebs need to know is that these “tactics” exist and that they are so fiendishly difficult that they need several days to fully explain. Or perhaps the tactics are fairly simple but the cricketers are relatively dim. Maybe the days leading up to an international are spent in a classroom with a slack-jawed Lee staring uncomprehendingly at a whiteboard upon which General Ponting has drawn a picture of some stumps with the word “stumps” written underneath in large capital letters.

Then there was the stirring tale of Nathan Hauritz and his dash across India to answer his nation’s call. The headlines told it all. Words like, “weary”, “sleep-deprived” and “frenetic schedule” all featured prominently. A little further reading uncovered the details of Hauritz’s horror timetable, beginning after Friday night’s Champions League Final. Left dressing room at 1am. Caught flight at mid-day. Arrived 8:30pm on Saturday night, a mere 12 hours before the toss. Wait a minute, what was that first item again? Left dressing room at 1am?

“Becoming the inaugural champions, you still have to celebrate with your team-mates,” said Hauritz. Do you? When you have an important flight to catch the next day?

“It was tough”, he elaborated. Wouldn’t it have been a little less tough if he hadn’t stayed up till 1am celebrating? And is one-and-a-half games of cricket in 48 hours really such a problem? Does trundling in to send down a few offbreaks, then doing the same thing two days later really warrant such dramatic headlines?

Now I like Hauritz. I enjoyed watching him confound his critics during the Ashes. And he is not entirely to blame for how this “story” was written. Cricket has become a kind of celebrity circus, with its performers surrounded by agents busily spinning and journalists anxious for access, all of them peddling narcissistic claptrap about burnout, fatigue and the weariness of the long-distance spinner.

So in a spirit of philanthropy, I have decided to help out. I am setting up franchises of Hughes’ House of Snacks at airports around the world. Staffed by employees working 12-hour shifts on minimum wages, these outlets of enlightenment will specialise in early-morning coffee and delicious reality sandwiches for those who have recently spent a lot of time with their head in the clouds.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Burnout

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Posted by NKI on (October 31, 2009, 0:42 GMT)

David Hopps says "You either get team spirit or you don't." I like it! You either get team "spirit" or you don't.....gotta celebrate the win with a few of those. Explains the 1am departure.

Posted by johnny on (October 30, 2009, 12:56 GMT)

Article is in bad taste about cricketers in general. So what if he is a spinner and had to bowl only 4 hours in the cl 20 game, he still has to go thorugh the team meetings, endless flights,being so far away from home. that too at a place like vadodara.Remember the game finishes only at 11:00 PM and he has left the dressing room by 1:00 AM. thats just 2 hours Mr Hughes. I agree he still gets paid a lot of money, But I would like to see you to go sit far away from everything you know and love and write this same piece and get paid a lot of money... Would you do it sir? day in and day out??

Posted by Nihit on (October 30, 2009, 9:48 GMT)

ROFL ... Great article dude.. I cannot agree with u more that our dearest Punter do cribs a lot but I would definitely say arriving just 12 hours before an international game is never ideal.

Posted by Raghav on (October 29, 2009, 12:18 GMT)

Awesome article .Loved the General Ponting bit.In part while i do agree with Sunil on the earlier comment , what i would be interested in knowing is that,wasnt Ponting already aware of Lee's participation in CLT20 and shouldnt he have taken into account the probability of NSW making it to the later stages of the tournament. With the amount of money being made by the players , while we can always debate the issue of burnout, i think its imperative that the players keep their priorities in place .

P.S Just wonder if the title of the article's been inspired by the Iron Maiden number 'Loneliness of a long distance runner'.

Posted by skid on (October 29, 2009, 9:57 GMT)

I agree with Praveen and not with simon goldmember, I was a pro athlete for 10 years and tho flying round the world, changing time zones and relentless training and tactical analysis gets tiresome, it beats the hell out of being a labourer... how many brickies get free physio, massage and half a hundred sycophants telling u ur great?

Funny article, I know punter (I live in his home town) and it is very funny thinking of him at the whiteboard lol he would need a tutor to spell stumps lol

Posted by vgk on (October 29, 2009, 9:36 GMT)

A question for the more informed. Where is the famous aussie rotation policy? is it just a way to show the door to non-performing superstars or is it a publicity stunt to keep the fans guessing?

Posted by daniel on (October 29, 2009, 7:48 GMT)

Im so sick of hearing about "workloads" and all this claptrap, welcome to REAL LIFE guys, we work 9 -5 day afta day and we're all knackered too, get on with it!!

Posted by greg on (October 29, 2009, 7:23 GMT)

The difference, Praveen, is that a top sportsman, especially in a sport like cricket, will really need to be at close to 100% performance every time, both to be worth their place in the team, and also to perform to a standard that spectators come to expect. The margins between being one of the best in the World and journeyman are incredibly fine, and most sports can be separated from other professions by the need to maintain BOTH peak mental and physical performance.

But then i sense that your post might be a bit of an ironic joke, including as it does STUDENTS!!! :)

Anyway this is just a general post against the naysayers on "burnout", rather than a comment on the specifics of players not treating their bodies professionally.

Posted by Sajith on (October 29, 2009, 6:59 GMT)

Dear Andrew, finally an article that calls a spade a spade though in a delightful manner. Cricketers have a choice to play tournaments like the so-called Champions League organised by IPL. The lure of the lucre basically overpowers everything else and then suddenly we hear that players are breaking down, fatigue setting and the like. Playing two games of cricket in 48 hours surely can't be as taxing as playing two games of NBA level basketball or two premier league football games within the span of 3 days.

Well written and well said.

Posted by Yuvraj Varma on (October 29, 2009, 6:18 GMT)

A superbly written article. I quite agree with the unnecessary hue and cry over three players joining the team late. It wasn't as if these three players had reached at the time of toss. They had sufficient time to rest before the first ODI.

And it beats me too as to how much time would tactical discussions take. On the contrary, any other captain would be delighted to have a couple of players having a headstart in familiarising with the local conditions. After yesterdays disappointing result for him, I'm sure Mr. Ponting would be thinking of more things to crib about.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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