Mental fatigue is an issue in cricket inside bio-bubble and rotation becomes important. Virat Kohli drove home his point at a time when player rotation, especially by the England team during the ongoing series, has become a matter of debate.
There’s a school of thought that Test cricket being the pinnacle, it can’t be the right format for player rotation. Kohli begged to differ.
“I feel any format of the game is right place for rotation. No human being can possibly go on for that many number of games throughout the year. Everyone needs to find windows of having some time off, having a break, especially with bubble format. The kind of systems you have to follow in the bubble, it can get very monotonous and it is very difficult to keep yourself excited about small things. I think these are the things that need to be considered as long as you play in the bubble,” the India captain said ahead of the fourth Test.
During an off the record conversation, an Indian team player was talking about the mental fatigue that life inside a bio-bubble for a long period could cause. “Mental fatigue takes its toll. Staying inside the hotel (all the time) can be very demanding. We can feel the fatigue. We do talk among ourselves on how challenging it’s getting day by day. Things are fine when matches are on, but on non-match days killing time becomes very tough,” the player said.
The majority of the players in this Indian team have moved from one bio-bubble to another for the last six-odd months – the Indian Premier League followed by the Australia tour and now the England series. The short break they had after returning from Australia was a minor ‘solace’.
The BCCI has tried to make things comfortable for the players inside the bubble. Team rooms with facilities for indoor games like table tennis provided time-pass opportunities. Players are also allowed to go poolside every two hours. Those who are married have their families staying with them. Life is ostensibly tougher for the bachelors.
“… outside of that (bubble) it (rotation) depends on where you stand physically more than mentally. But I think till the bubble exists, we need to keep the mental factor in the picture as well, because mental fatigue would be a huge, huge factor, playing within a restricted area, moving around within restricted area. So yeah, these are things that one needs to be aware of,” Kohli said.
England’s rotation policy has come under the scanner. An impact batsman like Jos Buttler returned home after the first Test. Moeen Ali followed suit after playing the second Test and the tourists had just one frontline spinner in their XI for the third Test on a Motera dustbowl. Kevin Pietersen took a swipe at it after England lost the second Test. “Badhai ho india, England B Ko harane ke liye (Congratulations India, for beating England B),” he tweeted. After the third Test, former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal called England’s rotation policy “ridiculous”.
“The biggest flaw in English cricket at the moment is this laughable rotation policy, which is affecting the rhythm of their players,” Iqbal told this paper. The English cricket hierarchy, however, has maintained that players’ mental well-being is of paramount importance. England will play 17 Tests over the next one year and now they have the India skipper’s backing.
It’s another issue that India have a much stronger bench strength, which served the team wonderfully well during their 2-1 series win in Australia. “… hence our bench strength becomes way more important because if you have guys hungry, ready, who read the game well, who understand where the game is heading and are brave enough to take on opportunities or situations to push the team forward, then you can rotate very easily,” Kohli said.
He added: “You know there are 11 more guys who are ready to win a Test match for India, or one-day or T20 and that is exactly what we are striving towards. We have a clear road map as to where we need to go in the next four-five years, so that our transition is not difficult at all.”
Iqbal, too, had agreed that India’s bench strength allowed them to rotate. “To rotate, you have to have bench strength like India.”