How to manage a batsman's workload
What do people mean when they say "I'll manage"? They mean that they don't really know what they are doing, they have no expertise, but they'll bumble through somehow. Managing means just about getting by, even though you are woefully unprepared for what you are taking on.
It's the same in business. Managers manage. Just about.
After South Africa's solitary warm-up for their Test series against Pakistan A, Graeme Smith was asked why he had sat out the second innings, even though this was the first time he had played a competitive cricket match since May. He answered: "Not batting today was just a management process."
There is often criticism of the management of fast bowlers, but most of us understand that fatigue and niggling problems can accumulate and that occasionally it's necessary for a bowler to miss a match or so in order to reset his body. This is different, however.
For one, Smith is a batsman. Batting is a physical job, but it's not in the same league as fast bowling, which requires a practitioner to be a combination of sprinter, distance runner, javelin thrower and yoga disciple. Batting is easy. Batting's just jabbing at a moving object and occasionally waddling about.
This particular case of workload management is also a case of a player's workload being managed when he has no workload to manage. By most measurements, Smith hasn't really been a cricketer for the last half a year and the two runs he scored in the first innings of that warm-up match surely didn't tip him into "the red zone" that indicates when a cricketer's body parts are set to spontaneously combust because they just can't take it any more.
A final issue with the decision is that Smith wasn't rested for a match; he was rested during a match. It may have been a meaningless match with little to play for, but where do you draw the line? These sorts of fixtures could end up one-on-one in the second innings with everyone else kicking back, having their workload managed.
Presumably, Smith simply didn't need to play cricket in order to sharpen up for the Test series. There was an indication that this was the case in something he said before embarking on the tour. He said: "I've upped my cricket skills in the last two weeks or so and it will be about getting mentally ready."
He'd upped his skills. After a lifetime of trying to improve as a cricketer, he'd made noticeable progress in just a fortnight. That is a good return by any measure, and crucially, during this time he wasn't playing competitive cricket. His sole outing had been a match for Cobras against Madhya Pradesh in which he had scored two runs.
This perhaps explains why Smith sat out the second innings against Pakistan A - scoring two runs in a warm-up match is clearly the way to up your skills. Having scored precisely 2 in the first innings, batting in the second innings could have compromised his progress. In striving for a duck, he might inadvertently have thick-edged a four, undermining everything.
It's all part of the management plan. A few weeks ago, the South Africa team manager, Mohammad Moosajee, said: "We have been careful to monitor him at every step, so we don't overload him."
Come the first Test, Smith managed 15 runs in South Africa's first innings and then 32 in the second - bang on track with the progressive overload plan laid out by the management team. He'll be in prime condition to score a hundred by late 2014, as per the schedule.
Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket