Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri are turning out to be medias delight. Both are expressive and forthight in giving good copy.
After his unusually strong defence of his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s utility to the India side in the shorter formats, skipper Kohli has now questioned the avarice of the board’s administrators in scheduling the tours and their lack of imagination.
This is not the first time an India captain has spoken about the poor understanding of the game on the part of the officials and how the players are made to go through the rigours of going through the schedule like circus animals.
In the past, some captains wanted the media to take up cudgels on their behalf after their mild protests failed to have the desired effect, whereas Kohli is willing to publicly take on the administrators.
It is not clear whether he has broached the subject with the careerist board officials or the super Committee of Administrators (COA). There is little the board can do as far as the Future Tours Programme (FTP) wherein you have to stick to the schedule.
However, what Kohli is talking about is the actual scheduling of the itinerary. He has rightly objected to his team playing the ongoing Test series against Sri Lanka following it up with three One-Dayers and then three Twenty20 matches.
Two months ago, the Indians were in Sri Lanka, winning all the three Tests, five ODIs and one Twenty20 for a clean sweep. Now the Island nation team is in India to play another set of nine matches, three Tests and as many ODIs and Twenty20s.
By the time the Sri Lankans return home, the Indians are packing their suitcases for a crucial tour of South Africa, where they have not won a series, to play three Tests, six ODIs and three Twenty20s over eight weeks.
This adds up to some nine Tests, 14 ODIs and seven Twenty20s in less than seven months. All the matches were played in the familiar subcontinental conditions where India are undisputed champions, though they have not played Pakistan for a decade now.
All that the Indians got out of touring Sri Lanka and playing them here is that Kohli became the first Indian captain to win two series in the Emerald Isles and the Indians having not lost a series either at home or overseas since their loss to Australia in 2014-15 when Kohli took over as India captain midway through the series after Mahendra Singh Dhoni abruptly announced his retirement from Test cricket.
The Indian board can be happy with the record of Kohli’s team equaling Ricky Ponting’s nine strtaight series victories if they beat Sri Lanka in the ongoing series.
That’s poor thinking on the part of Indian administrators. If they think they have a chance of extending and setting a new record by winning in South Africa for the first time, they should have planned the tour better.
The South Africans couldn’t care less about India’s travel plans. They are only looking to avenge the miserable hammering they got on their last tour of India.
The Indians should be doing all the thinking and Kohli is right, a month’s time before they go to South Africa would have given the players an ideal time to plan for the tour, spending some time in a camp.
As part of preparation for South Africa, the team got two green tops at Kolkata and Nagpur with the elements conspiring to provide heavy atmosphere and the pitches of variable bounce.
Now the Indians will be playing their first Test within a week of landing there, after a two-day silly warm-up game where the entire touring party gets to bowl and bat, the batsmen retiring after a deent hit out in the middle.
Look at how the other big guns take their tours. For instance, England have been in Australia for some four weeks before playing their first Ashes Test at the Gabba.
England played two two-day games and two four-day matches before the start of the Test series. That’s how a team is expected to prepare for a serious contest, not the way the Indians are going to start their series in South Africa.
There have been endless discussions as to how a tour itinerary should be finalised, be it in India or overseas, and who all should be consulted. So far it is the economics that got precedence over logistics. The time has come for the players and the team’s support staff to be taken into confidence before drawing up the schedule.
The problem in India is the tiresome travelling, playing one day in Guwahati and two day later in Pune or playing in Chandigarh and then the next in Kochi, switching planes.
Things are a lot better now and the day is not far when the world’s richest cricket board owned a couple of planes to ferry the international teams without looking to commercial or chartered flights.