When more is less
"If we didn't play the series now, when else could we have played it?" said Dav Whatmore, when questioned whether this series could have been scheduled at a better time. After all, we've only had one full day of play in the Test leg of this tour so far. What Whatmore said wasn't rocket science; he was just reconfirming that the concept of a season and an off-season has disappeared from international cricket. He wasn't the only one. "Ideally, the timing of the series could have been better," said Rahul Dravid. "But schedules are cramped - over cramped if you ask me - so I don't know how we are going to fit everything in."
Dravid should know. He's leading a side that is already looking tired and has a long season ahead, with hardly any break. They will go back to India, have a nice debate over who the coach should be, and fly out for Ireland and England on June 20. That tour will only conclude in the first week of September and a few days later the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup starts in South Africa. After that, India travel to Australia and Pakistan. There will be some missionary tours to promote cricket in off-shore venues too. A suggestion from a journalist that cricket now be played indoors sounded absurd on the face of it, but given the schedules, to ensure completed matches every time they play, one may well bring in the roofs. Cricket's administrators need to make a choice in this regard: not all cricket venues can afford to be a Wimbledon, both sacrosanct and raking in the moolah.
Dravid said that the scheduling was something that needed serious looking into. "The solution is that we have to get the scheduling right," he said, "and try to get a certain number of Test and ODIs and try not to exceed that number and plan your tours well and prepare for your tours well. At the end of the day, quality is important and as an international player you want to provide quality cricket to people."
An international coach and an international captain concurred on the topic within ten minutes of each other; other captains have aired their concerns as well. However, Dravid refused to comment on whether the players themselves had drawn a line as to how much cricket they would play. And that probably fair enough, as it's unwise to expect him or anybody to discuss these issues at a press conference. But one hopes the men who matter are working at it. The quality of cricket matters to everybody, and not only cricketers.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine