Vengsarkar warns of 'cricket overkill'
Dilip Vengsarkar, the former India captain, has warned of a possible "cricket overkill" in India because of the long IPL schedule and fears that many players in the Indian team may be mentally tired as they leave on Friday for the ICC World Twenty20 in England just four days after the Indian league ended in South Africa.
Vengsarkar, who headed the selection panel that picked the World Twenty20-winning team in 2007, also said Gary Kirsten, the India coach, and his support staff now face a huge challenge in re-energising the team in the short period of time available. The only way to avoid such situations in the future, he said, was for India's cricket administrators to rework the IPL format and reduce its length - all the 15 members of India's World Twenty20 squad play for the eight IPL teams and Zaheer Khan, their strike bowler, is still recovering from a shoulder injury that he suffered during the IPL.
Vengsarkar's comments on mental fatigue are similar to those made by Kirsten and Sachin Tendulkar on the subject over this month. While Kirsten pointed that his players have been on the road from the New Zealand tour that started on February 20, Tendulkar, who is not part of this Twenty20 team, warned that the fatigue factor could affect the team's opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
"The Indian players are now in a situation where they play two high-pressure Twenty20 tournaments, back-to-back and that's never ideal," Vengsarkar told Cricinfo. "It's the job of administrators to ensure that the players are fresh and ready. Otherwise, there is the possibility of a cricket overkill in India."
The IPL's schedule and format, he said, will have to be revised first to correct the situation. "The IPL schedule [37 days this year and 44 days last year] is simply too long and I feel very strongly about it," Vengsarkar said. "It affects the fitness and form of players for major international events. And there are always chances of mental fatigue creeping in. One possible solution is have 10 teams in the IPL playing nine matches each for a maximum of around 25-30 days. I think that's the way to go about it, from the players' perspective."
Vengsarkar added that Kirsten has a tough job on his hands to lift the Indian team mentally in time for their first warm-up game at Lord's against New Zealand on June 1. "It's a big challenge for Kirsten and his support staff to manage this task," Vengsarkar said. "I hope they can pull it off because resting the players completely can't also be done at this point of time. There are just a few days to go and the players have to practice to maintain their form, fitness and match rhythm, which is so important in Twenty20 cricket."
India play Pakistan in their second warm-up game at the Oval on June 3 before moving to Trent Bridge to play their preliminary matches against Bangladesh on June 6 and Ireland on June 10.
Ajay Shankar is a deputy editor at Cricinfo