October 26, 2009

The problem with burnout

It's not just players who are affected - fans and the media too are, apparently
22

"Burnout" is back. Until a few years ago, it seemed to be all that players and their union representatives used to talk about, cricket's version of sick building syndrome and yuppie flu. Then, with the rise of the Indian Premier League, players suddenly couldn't play enough, and burst with renewed energy that was in some cases remarkable. When Andrew Symonds had a kick of the footy the day after his sale to the Deccan Chargers 18 months ago, his Australian team-mates pulled his leg: it was amazing that a man could jump so high with so much gold in his pockets.

Now Australian coach Tim Nielsen is worried about burnout ahead of Australia's one-day series against India in the context of those New South Wales players who have just enjoyed a massive Champions League collect. Sounds like the kind of burning out you could get used to, doesn't it? In a two-week period, Simon Katich's team fielded for 114.2 overs, batted for 111.5, and won $US2.6 million. They might have the aforementioned Andrew Symonds problem, but surely not much else.

Nielsen does have a point, of course, insofar as it is not so much the playing that grinds players down these days as the relentless travelling and the protracted absences from home. He has watched it wear the keen edge from the likes of Michael Hussey and Stuart Clark; he has seen it finally get the better of Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, relatively young men with good cricket still in them. But hold the violins: these are supremely well-paid professionals, and the modern have-iPhone-and-Blackberry-will-travel professional is mobile, motivated and global in perspective. Twenty20, moreover, can be a high-pressure game, but it is hardly a physically extenuating one. At Oxford University earlier this year, Sourav Ganguly remarked dryly that he sometimes finishes Twenty20 games feeling as though he's hardly played. That was the warm-up, wasn't it? Say, when does the cricket start?

Yet is burnout an affliction troubling only to players? Leni Riefenstahl's camerawork could not have disguised the gaps in the crowds at the venues outside Delhi during the recent Champions League. The organisers were fortunate that the spirit and élan of Trinidad & Tobago gave locals something to cheer for; Indian cricket without its matinee idols, the Tendulkars, Dhonis and Yuvrajs, felt a bit like Carnegie Hall with buskers being given the run of it.

It's not a year since Australia played six of the most enthralling Tests of the modern era, against South Africa; they are just about to begin a best-of-seven 50-over head-to-head in India. Yet between times have been squeezed, inter alia, the Indian Premier League, the Wisden Trophy, the World Twenty20, the Ashes, two Natwest Series, the Champions Trophy and the Champions League, most if not all with the capacity to be marquee events, but slotted together instead as tightly as Meccano. Actually, I'm being unkind to Meccano: Meccano is satisfyingly logical and coherent; the cricket year has been like trying to make the Lego Stars Wars collection integrate with adobe brick, to slot K'Nex Railroad Pals into Carrara marble.

Crowds, to be sure, are not always a reliable index of interest for cricket. There will have been numberless millions keeping track of the Champions League on their alternate screens at work and fast-forwarding through games taped overnight. But the sheer disorganisation of cricket's calendar is now itself fatiguing, and cannot but bring cynicism and contempt in its train. One half expects Lalit Modi to decree an extra month of the year, modestly named Modember, for a Champion of Champions Championship.

The sheer disorganisation of cricket's calendar is now itself fatiguing, and cannot but bring cynicism and contempt in its train. One half expects Lalit Modi to decree an extra month of the year, modestly named Modember, for a Champion of Champions Championship

Speaking of cynics, the other potential victim of burnout, not that many will be able to summon so much as a glycerin tear, is the media itself. Of course, journalists are terminal malcontents, popular really with neither players nor public. Sit in an airconditioned press box watching cricket, do you? What a life! Well, yes it is, quite, and one would sometimes wish to do more of it. For it's not so much the journalists feeling the strain of the calendar today so much as media proprietors. With the decline of newspapers, even big media organisations like News Corporation are becoming picky about tours and tournaments, especially long ones. Online media is not a like-for-like substitute, idly prone to the cheap shortcuts of seating a junior journalist in front of a television in the office, and/or soliciting dashed-off tripe from wannabe pundits and try-hard humourists.

As their own game grows rich beyond the dreams of Mammon, the game's governors will not spare too much time worrying about the straits into which daily print media is slipping, with advertising migrating to the web and circulations continuing their long-term downward trend line. On the contrary, the recent catfights over intellectual property between boards of control and news agencies have the former's position abundantly clear: they like the money on their side of the table. The print media, too, can be a little irreverent for some tastes, inclined to making a nuisance of itself by being critical, by being tasteless and tactless, by pointing out problems, by holding administrators and players to account.

For all its faults, and these are many, the print media has a credibility that a handsome Bollywood star and a popular model walking towards a camera and holding microphones while reading a script cannot quite attain. And a game so prone to making a horse's arse of itself needs its gadflies. Journalists, for example, did much to reveal cricket's dark match-fixing heart a decade ago; one wonders whether they would now be sufficiently vigilant, curious and numerous to do the same. Players are not alone, then, in suffering from a surfeit of cricket. What they are alone in is benefiting from it.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • vinit207 on October 27, 2009, 14:31 GMT

    Those who complain about players like brett lee and dwayne bravo playing for different club sides, there is a simple solution. Very simple indeed. Just dont watch these domestic series. If you feel that the only way the sanity of cricket will remain intact is by watching nation vs nation, watch only those. I am sure Bravo will turn up for Windies(if selected) everytime they play.

    I think all these people just begrudge the great flexibility the modern professional cricketer has. No offence.

  • AdityaMookerjee on October 27, 2009, 13:07 GMT

    I for one, cannot have enough of international cricket featuring India. Perhaps, test playing nations will develop a very big bench strength, for international matches. I see no other solution for the amount of cricket being played. However much cricket is being played, I would love to watch India, play the major test playing nations in a cricket match.

  • Uranium on October 27, 2009, 12:16 GMT

    Burnout? Harden up! On the player side, what is amounts to is saying: "I want there to be less cricket so that I can play all formats + the IPL". Ridiculous. Pick your preferred format and become a specialist buddy. On the spectator side, well if you don't want to watch it... then don't.

    NBA basketball has 30 teams playing 82 games(!!!) each over 5 months in the regular season. After that the playoffs consists of 4 tiers of best of 7 series' which extends for almost 2 months... longer than our cricket world cup. Welcome to professional sport - it generates money and entertainment and the hope of glory for an ever increasing number of young athletes.

  • HenryBee on October 27, 2009, 10:05 GMT

    Very perceptive article. I especially liked the point that

    <em>"Online media is not a like-for-like substitute, idly prone to the cheap shortcuts of seating a junior journalist in front of a television in the office, and/or soliciting dashed-off tripe from wannabe pundits and try-hard humourists" </em>

    Reminds one just a little of Andrew "Cardus" Miller and Andy "Milligan" Saltzman!

  • eyballfallenout on October 27, 2009, 2:15 GMT

    I am always up for watching cricket, but i have to say that this 7 ODI series in india is completely meaningless. Aus should have put a team mix of NSW and VIC without the regular international players. Warner Hughes katich hodge d hussy mcdonald bolinger nannes ect and let the lees and pontings go home and rest before the test series (which is more important) Aus would have probably won anyway with the second team. There is no way we should play these token ODI series, international series should be 5 tests 5 one day and 1 t20. a big build up and a proper series against fully fit teams. Clarke braken lee hopes johnson all injured. what if these guys cant play the summer, that would be disappointing.

  • PeteB on October 27, 2009, 1:13 GMT

    I'm crying crocodile tears for these players complaining of burnout. If they want to know burnout I suggest they play minor league baseball in the US for example. As the article suggests throw a bunch of money at them and suddenly they're excitied and as fit as fiddles. And ultimately if it is all too tough they can retire. There are plenty of talented youngsters who will take their positions.

  • kharkov on October 27, 2009, 0:32 GMT

    What the hell is wrong with u guys?'Burnout'its nothing in sportmans carrer.Enjoy and play with pride for ur nation.Who is saying journalists,audience,players etc to cover all matches,if u feel burning out dont strech urself...If audience feels dont tune in,dont write much others vl come to write,vacant places will be filled by new talented stars...And it goes on.But its money in every one mind.Better think like normal guys.Apologies who feel bad wd my comment!

  • lucyferr on October 26, 2009, 22:09 GMT

    "One half expects Lalit Modi to decree an extra month of the year, modestly named Modember, for a Champion of Champions Championship" ... what do you mean, HALF? ;-) I've already received my 2010 Indian Cricket Cabal 400-day calendar in the mail, haven't you?

  • Itchy on October 26, 2009, 20:58 GMT

    Agree with popcorn, in theory, on the number of matches per tour as it keeps a lid on the overall number of matches played without over-representing one form. There are too many meaningless ODI series played - why Aus played 7 matches against Eng and then another 7 against Ind (apart from $$$) is beyond me as you get bored watching past game 3.

    Gilly suggested a few months back that the number of test matches should be reduced such that playing 50 tests for your country was a significant achievement (not 100+ as it seems to be now). I think he is on to something.

  • Exterminator_Jeff on October 26, 2009, 20:43 GMT

    There is way too much cricket now that im getting tired of watching it. I barely paid any attention to the champions trophy at all. A few years ago it would have been a big thing for me. Teams need to stop playing 7 match series and people need to stop coming up with new 2020 tournaments just to make more money. What there is now is the most the can be allowed else itl become overkill. A good balance for a tour is 3 tests, 3 - 5 ODIs and 2 t20s i think

  • vinit207 on October 27, 2009, 14:31 GMT

    Those who complain about players like brett lee and dwayne bravo playing for different club sides, there is a simple solution. Very simple indeed. Just dont watch these domestic series. If you feel that the only way the sanity of cricket will remain intact is by watching nation vs nation, watch only those. I am sure Bravo will turn up for Windies(if selected) everytime they play.

    I think all these people just begrudge the great flexibility the modern professional cricketer has. No offence.

  • AdityaMookerjee on October 27, 2009, 13:07 GMT

    I for one, cannot have enough of international cricket featuring India. Perhaps, test playing nations will develop a very big bench strength, for international matches. I see no other solution for the amount of cricket being played. However much cricket is being played, I would love to watch India, play the major test playing nations in a cricket match.

  • Uranium on October 27, 2009, 12:16 GMT

    Burnout? Harden up! On the player side, what is amounts to is saying: "I want there to be less cricket so that I can play all formats + the IPL". Ridiculous. Pick your preferred format and become a specialist buddy. On the spectator side, well if you don't want to watch it... then don't.

    NBA basketball has 30 teams playing 82 games(!!!) each over 5 months in the regular season. After that the playoffs consists of 4 tiers of best of 7 series' which extends for almost 2 months... longer than our cricket world cup. Welcome to professional sport - it generates money and entertainment and the hope of glory for an ever increasing number of young athletes.

  • HenryBee on October 27, 2009, 10:05 GMT

    Very perceptive article. I especially liked the point that

    <em>"Online media is not a like-for-like substitute, idly prone to the cheap shortcuts of seating a junior journalist in front of a television in the office, and/or soliciting dashed-off tripe from wannabe pundits and try-hard humourists" </em>

    Reminds one just a little of Andrew "Cardus" Miller and Andy "Milligan" Saltzman!

  • eyballfallenout on October 27, 2009, 2:15 GMT

    I am always up for watching cricket, but i have to say that this 7 ODI series in india is completely meaningless. Aus should have put a team mix of NSW and VIC without the regular international players. Warner Hughes katich hodge d hussy mcdonald bolinger nannes ect and let the lees and pontings go home and rest before the test series (which is more important) Aus would have probably won anyway with the second team. There is no way we should play these token ODI series, international series should be 5 tests 5 one day and 1 t20. a big build up and a proper series against fully fit teams. Clarke braken lee hopes johnson all injured. what if these guys cant play the summer, that would be disappointing.

  • PeteB on October 27, 2009, 1:13 GMT

    I'm crying crocodile tears for these players complaining of burnout. If they want to know burnout I suggest they play minor league baseball in the US for example. As the article suggests throw a bunch of money at them and suddenly they're excitied and as fit as fiddles. And ultimately if it is all too tough they can retire. There are plenty of talented youngsters who will take their positions.

  • kharkov on October 27, 2009, 0:32 GMT

    What the hell is wrong with u guys?'Burnout'its nothing in sportmans carrer.Enjoy and play with pride for ur nation.Who is saying journalists,audience,players etc to cover all matches,if u feel burning out dont strech urself...If audience feels dont tune in,dont write much others vl come to write,vacant places will be filled by new talented stars...And it goes on.But its money in every one mind.Better think like normal guys.Apologies who feel bad wd my comment!

  • lucyferr on October 26, 2009, 22:09 GMT

    "One half expects Lalit Modi to decree an extra month of the year, modestly named Modember, for a Champion of Champions Championship" ... what do you mean, HALF? ;-) I've already received my 2010 Indian Cricket Cabal 400-day calendar in the mail, haven't you?

  • Itchy on October 26, 2009, 20:58 GMT

    Agree with popcorn, in theory, on the number of matches per tour as it keeps a lid on the overall number of matches played without over-representing one form. There are too many meaningless ODI series played - why Aus played 7 matches against Eng and then another 7 against Ind (apart from $$$) is beyond me as you get bored watching past game 3.

    Gilly suggested a few months back that the number of test matches should be reduced such that playing 50 tests for your country was a significant achievement (not 100+ as it seems to be now). I think he is on to something.

  • Exterminator_Jeff on October 26, 2009, 20:43 GMT

    There is way too much cricket now that im getting tired of watching it. I barely paid any attention to the champions trophy at all. A few years ago it would have been a big thing for me. Teams need to stop playing 7 match series and people need to stop coming up with new 2020 tournaments just to make more money. What there is now is the most the can be allowed else itl become overkill. A good balance for a tour is 3 tests, 3 - 5 ODIs and 2 t20s i think

  • hsengiv86 on October 26, 2009, 18:54 GMT

    you know what, till last January I enjoyed and used to read the bulletins and post match review in cricinfo.com,now with the amount of cricket played,I rarely watch cricket or read the bulletins in cricinfo.com.It is getting really boring,what is the point in watching a player play 2 clubs at the same time (Lee for example plays for Nsw and punjab).Is it not irritating? this has to stop.bring back the old cricket ways.nowadays we are loosing the track of the amount of ICC Trophy played.Earlier When there used to be only the world cup we knew who where the world champions and it was considered as a prestigious and a special event.But now even the world cup sounds normal.

  • vinit207 on October 26, 2009, 18:40 GMT

    What burnout? If you don't wanna watch it, dont switch on the TV. Players are just doing their job. Don't we all work for our respective organisations throughout the year? Don't we all do overtime when it is required?

    It's high time people realized that these are 'professional' cricketers. This is what they are paid to do. Same thing goes for the media. This article is a real example of how the media is using the 'burnout' issue for its benefit.

  • Philip_Gnana on October 26, 2009, 15:59 GMT

    Player burnout? what burn out? See these guys play and enjoy their cricket.. oops money I mean. Of course burnout does not affect the shortest format of the game does it? Am i missing something or not? Add another league based say a T35, pay the players more than the ODI and hey presto they all would turn back and say we play too much of test cricket and ODI. The more lucrative the league is the more poplular it would be. Talking about instant cricket or Pot Noodle cricket (as Arjuna Ranatunga refers to T20 ) the online instant reports do attract a great audience with the desk stop score boards and ball-by-ball. May be this should be called Pot Noodle reporting. All going a bit potty (in the head of course). $11,500 per over. Who in their right senses would grumble about the rewards?

    On the matter of media reporting. The advantage that we now have on reporting is super. We can respond online almost 121. Super stuff. Philip Gnana, Surrey

  • elsmallo on October 26, 2009, 15:58 GMT

    As Paullie says. I'm too burnt out to read about burnout. The only cricket I've really enjoyed recently is watching Bond bowl at the Aussies in the Champions trophy final, precisely because I've seen so little of him in the last few years. Play less and up the quality, please.

  • JoeyBaxter on October 26, 2009, 14:16 GMT

    I'm going to go against the tide here and say that yes, there's been a lot of cricket this year, but heck I've enjoyed it! I can't really understand people complaining that there is too much cricket, especially now that we have the variety of three forms of cricket. if you don't like so much cricket, don't tune in. I, on the other hand, happen to enjoy all three formats.

    On the issue of player 'burn out' as it were, I think players must seriously consider how their involvement in the IPL and other such events impacts upon their international performances. We have only just seen Brett Lee play the whole Champions League in full fitness and then succumb to injury in only the first ODI against India. Should Lee have perhaps sat out of one or two Champions League matches knowing there was an international series just around there corner? No! "But the money!" he says!

  • ww113 on October 26, 2009, 14:00 GMT

    So much Cricket is played these days that I, for one, have become almost indifferent.Seven match one day series,meaningless tri series and all these pointless T 20s.Add to that the endless ads and insufferable commentators and it is a recipe for sheer boredom.

  • emmersonne on October 26, 2009, 13:54 GMT

    I agree entirely with this article and 'Popcorn's comments below. Some organisation is needed! And no, India, just because you have a big pile of cash you cannot dictate the cricket calendar all year round.

  • popcorn on October 26, 2009, 12:38 GMT

    Cricketers,administratora and Fans alike will be happy with a well-balanced,well-spread,well-distributed FTP that makes Countries play an identical number of Test Matches,ODI and Twenty 20 games against each other.3 to 5 Tests,5 ODIs, 3 Twenty20s,one ODI World Cup every four years,one Test Championship once in 4 years, one Twenty20 World Cup once in 4 years. Give cricketers AND support staff enough time in between series to energize. Then we'll ALL look forward to a good game of cricket.

  • rahulbhagchandani on October 26, 2009, 11:47 GMT

    Absolutely. As an old saying, too much of anything is bad, many a times worst too! If this is the way how it goes, not only India, but other nations might also come with their own XYZ premier leagues. Then, it will be all mess. On the other hand, too much of cricket will also play a huge role in the depreciation of the popularity of the game. The idea should be - no huge 7 match ODI series, no IPLs spanned over 50 days and less frequency of league cricket. Well, it can be definitely done, but the problem is the administrators. Cricket now is no longer considered a game, its a business now, a profession. If a player of India gets into the international squad, he in addition gets 5 diff contracts too. That's the way things are going. Its better a time now to consider cricket back a sport rather than business and save its legacy. Else, cricket won't longer be a gentleman's game!

  • sunny_gr on October 26, 2009, 10:30 GMT

    Have to agree to an extent, very much cricket played these days, you won't find your telly vacant of the sport any of these days, but then again, who watches all the cricket going on? Most fans will only ardently follow a series if their team's playing. But thought needs to be given as to why Australia's been going on for so long without a break? SA were off for 3 months played 3 matches and are off from international cricket for another month; can teams not be given these breaks alternately instead of persisting to organise continuous series for several teams only? I wonder when they're going to make these FTProgrammes better.

  • __PK on October 26, 2009, 6:39 GMT

    A 1000-word about too much cricket, for which Mr Haigh was presumably paid. Maybe players aren't the only ones benefiting from it, after all. If you're getting too much cricket, Mr Haigh, do as you report the jaded crowds are doing - don't watch, don't comment. That way, we online readers benefit from too much cricket, too.

  • Ajay42 on October 26, 2009, 6:11 GMT

    Very well said. The joy of reading a well written match report the next day in the newspapers cannot be compared to any other form of reporting.Cricket itself is being destroyed as we all suffer from ennui...I hardly watched yesterday's one dayer between India and Aus after Tendulkar got out, preferring my Sunday afternoon nap instead. And this surfeit of 20-20 nonsense means that we wont be producing any more Tendulkars...or Laras, Or Warnes or Mc Graths...what a shame but does anybody care???

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  • Ajay42 on October 26, 2009, 6:11 GMT

    Very well said. The joy of reading a well written match report the next day in the newspapers cannot be compared to any other form of reporting.Cricket itself is being destroyed as we all suffer from ennui...I hardly watched yesterday's one dayer between India and Aus after Tendulkar got out, preferring my Sunday afternoon nap instead. And this surfeit of 20-20 nonsense means that we wont be producing any more Tendulkars...or Laras, Or Warnes or Mc Graths...what a shame but does anybody care???

  • __PK on October 26, 2009, 6:39 GMT

    A 1000-word about too much cricket, for which Mr Haigh was presumably paid. Maybe players aren't the only ones benefiting from it, after all. If you're getting too much cricket, Mr Haigh, do as you report the jaded crowds are doing - don't watch, don't comment. That way, we online readers benefit from too much cricket, too.

  • sunny_gr on October 26, 2009, 10:30 GMT

    Have to agree to an extent, very much cricket played these days, you won't find your telly vacant of the sport any of these days, but then again, who watches all the cricket going on? Most fans will only ardently follow a series if their team's playing. But thought needs to be given as to why Australia's been going on for so long without a break? SA were off for 3 months played 3 matches and are off from international cricket for another month; can teams not be given these breaks alternately instead of persisting to organise continuous series for several teams only? I wonder when they're going to make these FTProgrammes better.

  • rahulbhagchandani on October 26, 2009, 11:47 GMT

    Absolutely. As an old saying, too much of anything is bad, many a times worst too! If this is the way how it goes, not only India, but other nations might also come with their own XYZ premier leagues. Then, it will be all mess. On the other hand, too much of cricket will also play a huge role in the depreciation of the popularity of the game. The idea should be - no huge 7 match ODI series, no IPLs spanned over 50 days and less frequency of league cricket. Well, it can be definitely done, but the problem is the administrators. Cricket now is no longer considered a game, its a business now, a profession. If a player of India gets into the international squad, he in addition gets 5 diff contracts too. That's the way things are going. Its better a time now to consider cricket back a sport rather than business and save its legacy. Else, cricket won't longer be a gentleman's game!

  • popcorn on October 26, 2009, 12:38 GMT

    Cricketers,administratora and Fans alike will be happy with a well-balanced,well-spread,well-distributed FTP that makes Countries play an identical number of Test Matches,ODI and Twenty 20 games against each other.3 to 5 Tests,5 ODIs, 3 Twenty20s,one ODI World Cup every four years,one Test Championship once in 4 years, one Twenty20 World Cup once in 4 years. Give cricketers AND support staff enough time in between series to energize. Then we'll ALL look forward to a good game of cricket.

  • emmersonne on October 26, 2009, 13:54 GMT

    I agree entirely with this article and 'Popcorn's comments below. Some organisation is needed! And no, India, just because you have a big pile of cash you cannot dictate the cricket calendar all year round.

  • ww113 on October 26, 2009, 14:00 GMT

    So much Cricket is played these days that I, for one, have become almost indifferent.Seven match one day series,meaningless tri series and all these pointless T 20s.Add to that the endless ads and insufferable commentators and it is a recipe for sheer boredom.

  • JoeyBaxter on October 26, 2009, 14:16 GMT

    I'm going to go against the tide here and say that yes, there's been a lot of cricket this year, but heck I've enjoyed it! I can't really understand people complaining that there is too much cricket, especially now that we have the variety of three forms of cricket. if you don't like so much cricket, don't tune in. I, on the other hand, happen to enjoy all three formats.

    On the issue of player 'burn out' as it were, I think players must seriously consider how their involvement in the IPL and other such events impacts upon their international performances. We have only just seen Brett Lee play the whole Champions League in full fitness and then succumb to injury in only the first ODI against India. Should Lee have perhaps sat out of one or two Champions League matches knowing there was an international series just around there corner? No! "But the money!" he says!

  • elsmallo on October 26, 2009, 15:58 GMT

    As Paullie says. I'm too burnt out to read about burnout. The only cricket I've really enjoyed recently is watching Bond bowl at the Aussies in the Champions trophy final, precisely because I've seen so little of him in the last few years. Play less and up the quality, please.

  • Philip_Gnana on October 26, 2009, 15:59 GMT

    Player burnout? what burn out? See these guys play and enjoy their cricket.. oops money I mean. Of course burnout does not affect the shortest format of the game does it? Am i missing something or not? Add another league based say a T35, pay the players more than the ODI and hey presto they all would turn back and say we play too much of test cricket and ODI. The more lucrative the league is the more poplular it would be. Talking about instant cricket or Pot Noodle cricket (as Arjuna Ranatunga refers to T20 ) the online instant reports do attract a great audience with the desk stop score boards and ball-by-ball. May be this should be called Pot Noodle reporting. All going a bit potty (in the head of course). $11,500 per over. Who in their right senses would grumble about the rewards?

    On the matter of media reporting. The advantage that we now have on reporting is super. We can respond online almost 121. Super stuff. Philip Gnana, Surrey