Are we playing too much cricket?

The world cup is just a few weeks away and apart from one more game between Australia and NZ, there will be nothing between now and the World cup. This break will give teams a chance to rest, rejuvenate and recuperate from the injury woes that they have been facing. Most of the teams have been playing non-stop cricket the last few weeks, and sooner or later, ICC and the cricket boards will have to recognize that this overload is the reason for this spate of injuries and do something about it.

Let us look at the games each team has played since the beginning of this year:

Team ODIs Tests
Australia 12 1
England 10 1
India 8 1
New Zealand     13       
Pakistan 5 3
South Africa 5 4
Sri Lanka 7
West Indies 4

That is an awful number of games, considering the fact that it has just been 50 days since the beginning of this year and the premier event in world cricket is due to start shortly.

If we look at Australia’s schedule, they’ve just finished the Ashes, followed it up with a tri-series involving England and NZ and ended it with a three match ODI series against NZ. Their injury list includes Lee (left ankle), Symonds (biceps), Clarke (hip) and  Ponting (back). They are probably both mentally and physically tired after all this cricket and their results show it – 5 losses in 6 games! Not the ideal scenario before the start of the world cup.

England have had a tough tour in Australia and their team is filled with people recovering from injuries. Their injury woes started with Vaughn not making it for the Ashes and it has followed with Trescothick (stress), James Anderson, Jon Lewis and Peiterson.

In India, Sachin is nursing a stiff back and Pathan is not fully fit. Munaf and Yuvraj are just back from Injury. For New Zealand, Kyle Mills has completely missed the cup owing to Knee Surgery; Jacob Oram is going to miss a few games and no one knows when the fragile Bond is going to break down. Pakistan has had its whole fast bowling contingent under an injury cloud – Shoaib Akthar(knee), Mohammad Asif (elbow), Umar Gul (ankle), Shabbir Ahmed (groin), Mohammed Sami (back). If some of them have been taking performance enhancing drugs, it surely hasn’t helped with the injuries 🙂

Apparently(!), every team’s schedule has been planned well in advance to give the players the best chance of match practice and be their best before the World Cup. But it seems, this has had the exact opposite effect on players. We are looking at the possibility of teams such as Australia struggling to play their best eleven. There really is no thrill in beating a team like Australia if its top players are not playing due to injury.

So, what is the solution to this? Quite simple – play less number of matches.

Or use a radical approach – reduce the number of overs in all ODIs. Even a reduction of 10 overs per team will probably give players a big relief. If we continue to play more matches, we should reduce this even further. We could even substitute ODIs with more Twenty20 matches. It is also time to reduce the number of matches played in a test series (like the Ashes) to just 3.  

Until ICC takes the cue and takes some serious action, we are going to see more and more injuries – and careers of good cricketers cut short.


9 responses to “Are we playing too much cricket?

  1. Another alternative is to always have 20 players in a team (rather than the traditional 15) with the accepted view that, at any point in time, 3-4 of the players would be nursing minor/major niggles. That would (a) build true bench strength, (b) give players respite. I think we have to accept that the days of having players play 90-Tests-on-the-trot (uninterrupted by injuries and other absences) is truly gone! If I am not mistaken, Dravid holds this record…

  2. It is the number of games played coupled with the intensity with which these are played and the regularity with which these are played that causes player burnout.

    Let me explain –

    You have already elaborated on the number of games played.

    Regularity -Let us consider a team playing 15 tests and 30 ODIs a year.
    Assuming each series is 3 Tests and 6 ODIs long, this translates to roughly around 70 days to play 21 days worth of cricket.
    Now, if because of scheduling, the same team has to play the same number of games over a 9 month period and then have a 3 month off season, it amounts to about 54 days to play the same 21 days.

    Intensity- Games have become more competitive, fielding standards are out of this world, bowlers and batsmen have become more analytical, everything is passed through a microscope – even compared to 10 years ago.


    Having a 20 person roster will lead to the same charges the Australia team is facing in NZ – of having sent a “second string team”.

    Not having marquee players is criminal in these days of hype and hoopla !!

  3. Homer,

    Good point on intensity. But at the same time, one could argue that the intensity argument is nullified by (a) better knowledge of sports medicine and physiology, (b) better/modern training techniques, (c) advanced and more scientific recovery methods. In fact, one could even mount a successful arguement that (a), (b) and (c) above are the actual causes for intensity!

    My point on a 20-member team is echoed in an Times of India article today. It is at:

    — Mohan

  4. Very good point. But on top of these 15 tests and 30 ODIs, there are also tour games and domestic matches that players are expected to play – although these games are probably played with a lower intensity.

    Another thing that affects burn out is excessive training. Some (including players like Shane Warne) have blamed excessive training as the cause for the injuries and (lack of) player performance currently affecting the Australian team.

  5. Mohan – I had not read your comments before I added mine, but here is my take on intensity:

    I see intensity as the amount of energy, enthusiasm, effort and application a person puts on what he or she is doing. When you have a strong opposition, a lot of players need the high intensity to perform better. It is difficult to sustain high intensity for prolonged periods of time, without feeling burnt out.

    However, Some players can overcome this by sheer ability. To give an example outside cricket – Roger Federer (who is actually a keen cricket fan) would fall into this category. When he is playing, it almost seems he can can win games with just a 70-80% intensity level, no matter who he is playing against.

  6. ICC should have a properly defined cricket season. That is each team plays an equal number of Tests and ODIs over a 2/3 year period. Each year should be split in such a way that every team gets a 3 month break continuously. For instance all professional sports in the US have a 6 month season and a 6 month break. This way every country will have a 4 1/2 month home season and a 4 1/2 month tour season. If this can be agreed upon in advance by the ICC, get the individual boards to sign contracts and schedule all the matches for the next 6 years then we can get a World Test and a World ODI league going with adequate rest for players. Continuing on Mohan’s thoughts on increasing bench strength, it is valid. Maybe not 20 but 17-18 seems more reasonable for a team to have.

  7. Sanjay,

    The ICC has a cricket season, though it is debatable whether it is properly defined or not.

    The ICC cannot mandate on bilateral series agreed upon by individual boards that lie outside of the ICC calender.


    If the matches are spaced out are decent intervals, then better knowledge of sports medicine and physiology and recovery can come into play.

    How often does that happen ?

    That, coupled with the amount of travel, coupled with the spacing of tests and ODIs ( 3 days between tests and a day between ODIs is a joke), does cause wear and tear

    And for all the advances in sports medicine, mental fatigue is something that has no known cure.

  8. The ICC must mandate on a unilateral method for International cricket. Thse bilateral negotiations should give way for a more unified thinking that emerges from a democratic discussion among all the cricket playing nations. I know that giving more control to the ICC can also be catastrophic but atleast if planned and executed well it might work.

  9. The one aspect that may come into play that we haven’t raised is the level of influence that governments may place on tours etc. For example, I get the feeling that an India-Pakistan series is almost always politically motivated. In this regard, it is not appropriate to compare cricket with sports in the US or professional tennis for that matter.
    Also, I am not sure if the relationship between individual Boards and the ICC itself is clearly established and/or understood. The debacle involving Darrel Hair was an example of the chaotic relationship. It exposed the lack of leadership in that case. As a result, who decides, no one knows…

    In these circumstances, I would go with Mohan’s idea of having bench strength, whatever the count maybe, ready to take on increasing number of games.

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