Having watched India wrap up the Asia Cup the other day as gleefully as a little boy grabs ice-cream, Wasim Akram, probably quite correctly, said that between then and the beginning of the World Cup early in October, they did not really need a one-day series against Australia with three matches packed into five days with plenty of travel thrown in. It will add to the fatigue the players already feel, having been through a series in the West Indies before the continental competition.
And travel, Akram, quite familiar with the Indian sub-continent, said, could take it out of players, the distances and attendant complications leaving them knackered. “You need to conserve your energy before a global competition rather than fritter it away,” he said, “since you’ll need all of it if you want to go deep into it.” India, of course, will be expected to aim at winning the trophy at home, and that entails reckoning with factors other than getting the boys to renew their familiarity with the 50-over format, which could be the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s argu- ment for the current series.
This, as has been said times without number, is quite independent of reality and requirements in Indian cricket, the bottom-line being more important than anything else. Akram chose not to breathe a word about injuries, which is part of the problems fixture congestion spawns in a country where sport medicine specialists, sometimes gone urgently to when a player is less than fit, have never been consulted on scheduling niceties. It is left to television to consider since it pumps in so much money. But injuries are an everpresent threat when officialdom is clinching deals in its funds-augmentation drive, which could be one reason why India has long found International Cricket Council trophies so elusive.
There is perhaps an easily discernible, orchestrated and coordinated plan for everyone on the peripheries of the Indian team loudly to praise God for Jasprit Bumrah’s return, on the evidence of a few overs of his bowling in Ireland and some more in Sri Lanka though he bowled 10 overs at Mohali on Friday. The question is whether he, with his unusual, injury- inducing action, is still the wicket-taking bowler he was but high and mighty ones in the BCCI talk of him being “eased back” into the thick of things even after such a length of time spent in carefully projected suspense.
There probably still are grey areas around Hardik Pandya and Shreyas Iyer but as long as the juggernaut rolls on, you are obliged to be content with the official version of reality. There can be but one scoreboard, though, when the hurly-burly is done and the battle, lost and won. There is no getting away from that.