PCA chief warns of burn-out
As England and Australia complete their seven-match ODI series at Chester-le-Street then prepare to fly straight to South Africa for the Champions Trophy, Sean Morris, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, has again warned about the schedules that the top players are facing.
This series has seen both sides resting key players at various stages. Ricky Ponting flew home for a break after the Ashes (and Tim Nielsen, the Australia coach, is currently on leave), while England have given Paul Collingwood and James Anderson time off. Collingwood said he felt his body was "shutting down" as various injuries started to catch up with him and the England players have told the PCA of their feelings ahead of a meeting of all the players' unions in Johannesburg.
The seven matches between England and Australia have struggled to capture the imagination of the public, with England performing so poorly, but Morris said their proximity to the Ashes battle meant the players were being pushed to the limits. "Seven ODIs has proved too much. Forty-eight hours after the Ashes, they were off to Ireland for a one-dayer and then onwards. Mentally people are getting into some pretty difficult places," he told the Sunday Times.
"If you want the guys to produce good quality cricket there needs to be a better balance between rest and play. At the moment they have practically got to drop dead to be given a rest."
The problem of scheduling has been increased by the growth of the IPL and other associated tournaments which add to the workload of international fixtures. For example, after the Champions Trophy Collingwood is contracted to appear in the Champions League Twenty20 for Delhi Daredevils during what would be his only break before England's tour of South Africa. Players, though, need to be cautious of criticising their workload having actively sought out IPL deals.
"This problem is not going to go away," Morris said. "The national boards need to manage what they can realistically get out of players. The best players tend to start young and the danger is that by 30 they will have had enough. Some pretty loud alarm bells should be ringing.
"When players question whether they want to get back on the bus, talk soon moves to how long they want to carry on. During this series there has been no time for build-up or preparation and that can't lead to the best quality games. This will transfer to fans and broadcasters quickly. The players agree that Test cricket is their number one priority. They have no issue with the amount of Test cricket. It is the stuff in between."