Kirsten blames IPL fatigue
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Gary Kirsten, the India coach, has said players' fatigue levels and the minor injuries they carried from the IPL to the ICC World Twenty20 contributed to the champions' early exit. He felt India never reached the "intensity that you need at the international game" where the standard of cricket is much higher than it was in the recent IPL.
"Fatigue was definitely a factor, as were many other things," Kirsten said the day after India's defeat against England. "I don't want to use that as an excuse but it was a factor. We weren't an energetic team, like we were in New Zealand where the levels of energy were really good. We didn't get up to the same level on this tour." This is not the first time that Kirsten has brought up this issue. In an interview to Cricinfo last month, the India coach had pointed out that the team had been on the road for a long while and said that mental fatigue was its biggest challenge for the World Twenty20.
All the members of India's World Twenty20 squad were part of the IPL and they arrived in England for the warm-up games which began on June 1, after playing a tightly scheduled five-week tournament in South Africa that ended only on May 24. Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan picked up serious injuries during the IPL. Sehwag's shoulder problem eventually ruled him out of the World Twenty20 while Zaheer, who admitted he was lucky to sit out for only four weeks, recovered just in time after missing most of Mumbai Indians' campaign and the practice games in England.
Prior to the IPL, the BCCI had scheduled five ODIs and a Twenty20 international in Sri Lanka between January 28 and Febuary 10 to fill the gap after the two-month tour of Pakistan was cancelled in December following government advice that it was not feasible "in the prevailing circumstances" after the Mumbai terror attacks. India then flew to New Zealand to play two Twenty20 internationals, five ODIs and three Tests in March and April. There was a mere 11-day gap between the end of the final Test and the first match of the IPL. "We were a relatively tired team when we arrived here [in England], Kirsten said. "We've been on the road since the end of January and hadn't really been at home much."
As a result, India decided against strenuous training during the World Twenty20. Many net sessions were optional and players often didn't practice if there was only a day's gap between matches. This was because they were "trying to work out whether we should increase the levels of training or ensure the guys have enough rest".
Kirsten also said that the short gap between the IPL and the World Twenty20 didn't give India enough time to prepare as a team, something that all other sides were able to do even though they had a few players involved in the IPL.
"If we go back to the Australia series, we had 17 days' preparation and then we played unbelievable cricket for seven months," Kirsten said. "That was a great foundation for us in many respects that allowed us to achieve what we did. Here the players have two days to go home, and then we come into the tournament without being able to connect with the players at all. We also had players who were carrying niggles into this tournament. We performed well below our potential and we've got to take the rap for that."
There has been a lot of debate during the tournament whether teams with players with more IPL experience had an edge over those that didn't. Players involved in the Twenty20 league have insisted that the IPL had been fabulous preparation but India's performance didn't seem to back that up. All their players were key members of their franchises but they failed to perform against the stronger sides in the World Twenty20. Kirsten said there was a difference in quality among the two tournaments. "Absolutely, that's a domestic competition, a club competition in many respects. I sense that there's a reasonably big gap between what's happening at IPL level and what's happening internationally. It's only natural, when you're picking your best XI out of each country the quality is going to go up substantially."
Kirsten was at pains to clarify that the demanding schedule was not an excuse but said "the bottom line is that it does affect teams physically and mentally" and hoped for a better lead-up into the 2010 World Twenty20 in the West Indies. He even said that some players could be rested from the IPL ahead of international assignments if that was possible. India's next assignment is a four-match ODI series in the Caribbean and Kirsten said they would begin preparing for that by giving the players some time off before regrouping and chalking out plans.
George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo