Imagine how much more Ashwin and Jadeja would have had to bowl had they also been limited-overs regulars in this time. Looked at this way, it’s clear why India have embarked on a rigorous rotation policy, particularly with their bowlers.
On the eve of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Kolkata, Kohli was at pains to explain why exactly some players needed more rest than others. “Eleven players play the game, but not everyone would have batted 45 overs in the ODI game, or bowled 35 overs in a Test match,” he said. “The guys who are doing that regularly are the ones that need to be assessed, because the body takes that much to recover and it needs rest as well.
“People only look at, ‘oh everyone has played 40 games.’ They don’t look at time spent on the crease, the number of runs that have been run between the wickets, the number of overs they have been bowling in difficult conditions: what are the conditions, what were the temperatures like, have the bodies recovered or not?
“I don’t think people go into that analysis. From the outside, it looks like, ‘why are people asking for rest, everyone has played same number of games.’ But not everyone has the same kind of workload in every kind of game you play. People who have major workload, for example [Cheteshwar] Pujara during a Test season, he’ll have maximum workload because he’ll spend so much time on the crease. His game is built that way.
“You cannot compare that to, say, a counterattacking player, because the workload would have been different. And purely because of the fact that we’ve built such a strong core team now of 20-25 players, you don’t want important players breaking down at important times for the team.
“That is where the balance needs to be maintained going forward, because if you have too much cricket going on, especially guys playing all three formats, it is humanly impossible to maintain same intensity and same level of performance as you do in the earlier phase of the season. I think those details are very important when you consider workload management.”
This is the second time in less than a month that Kohli has openly spoken about workloads. Given just how many balls he has faced over the last two years, Kohli too, at some point, will need time off. Though it hasn’t officially been confirmed yet, it’s likely he will get some rest during the second half of the series against Sri Lanka.
“Definitely, I do need a rest,” Kohli said. “Why not? When I think of the time when my body needs to be rested, I’ll ask for it. I am not a robot, you can slice my skin and check, I bleed.”
And when do all these balls faced, kilometers run between the wickets, and balls bowled cross the line into becoming too much cricket? Kohli felt he wasn’t the right person to answer that question, but agreed it was a valid question, and that it would be important to settle on an optimum number of games to keep players fresh and fans interested.
“I don’t know. I mean, this question or this analysis has to be done over a period of time by asking the fans who watch the game,” he said. “As cricketers, someone watching the game is very different from someone being involved in the game. There’s no complacency, or you’re saying ‘I don’t want to play this game,’ or you’re standing in the crease with the bat in hand and you say ‘I don’t feel like batting.’ There’s no room for that – you’re going to get out and the team is going to lose.
“So we’re in our top intensity all the time. This question will be better answered by fans who watch the game. I don’t know if there’s too much cricket being played or there’s repetition of same series happening or not. For us, as I said, it is about playing for the country. And we do what we’re presented with every time a new series comes up.
“This analysis can be done. It definitely has to be taken into consideration, because you don’t want the fans to go away, not watching the game. So we’ve got to maintain the balance of how to engage fans, and at the same time keep players fresh and keep cricket exciting. And have very competitive cricket going around all through the year. It’s a very good question, and I think that point definitely will be discussed in the future.”