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Watch out for spectator fatigue

If fans get tired of the game, it would spell doom.

Cricket commentary
MIND GAME

FOURTH UMPIRE

April 27, 2006: The player burnout has once again become the subject of debate with two veterans, former Australian captain Steve Waugh and injured Indian batting whiz Sachin Tendulkar, saying that administrators should strike a balance between too much cricket and too little cricket. Of course, these comments come not long after Sunil Gavaskar, chairman of ICCís cricket committee rubbished criticism against an overcrowded schedule saying that hard toil is part of the deal when one plays for the country.

It is difficult to disagree with Waugh and Tendulkar, two of the most hard working and committed cricketers the game has seen. While Tendulkar, as ever, was cautious not to speak out openly against the administrators, Waugh said that quality of cricket would suffer, especially the show by fast bowlers. He also linked to the tall scores that are being put on the board by teams.

Over the last decade, Indian team has been one of the busiest in terms of playing matches, both Tests and ODIs. And, now that the team is blessed with notable bench strength, the biggest argument that can be proffered in favour of a crowded schedule is that those who are too tired or injured can sit out for a while, giving others a chance. 

Till they retire, every international cricketer fancies a chance to return to the national side and it was a bit funny when the disgraced Mohammed Azharuddin, who is still serving a life ban, admitted in an interview recently that he may not be able to return to the Indian side.

But then, there are others waiting with more than realistic chance of returning to the side. Sourav Gangulyís claims have been discussed and there is also the very, very special player called Laxman who recently said he has it in him to play more for the
Indian team. Two of them can provide muscle to any middle order and not long ago would have been in contention for a world side. 

As for the fast bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra would be more than willing to make a comeback. There are any number of others who were tried and discarded like Tinu Yohannan and Thiru Kumaran besides youngsters who are waiting in the wings. One doesnít hear much about young slow bowlers these days and this is a mystery in the land of spinners. But Anil Kumble would be more than happy and hungry to play again and raise his tally to 600 Test wickets.

Is there any danger in such rotation of cricketers? Well, captains and coaches like to play with a settled side and this is because it is easy to implement ideas and build team spirit. But this is an idea more difficult to sell in a country with 25 states, one billion people and selectors from different zones. 

But the biggest problem, according to this writer, is spectator fatigue. If players are tired, they can be replaced. But if spectators become tired of the game, it would spell doom for the game itself. I remember a time when people would wait for weeks for a series to begin and dust their TV sets and radios. Now they donít care till that pre-match preview in newspapers remind them about next dayís match. So, Sachin is right. Allow the players to catch their breath and save their reputations.

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