I am an ardent fan of rotation policy, because it will eventually lead to Total Cricket, where each player is fulfilling all his skills as a cricketer. However lately, there is lot of media talk about how Australia’s rotation policy is depriving both people & media of quality cricket.
Ref. this article,
which talks about sports science research and work load management. It’s an eye opener for most of us, especially when we consider how sports science has helped athletes give their best.
A few points to consider and ponder :
1- If a underage cricketer is only bowling his quota of limited overs in his ‘age-group’ games, then what happens when he is selected by the National Selectors who want to fast track him to international cricket by playing him in state games ?
2- 1st class games/Test cricket don’t have any restriction on the number of overs a bowler should bowl. Hence it would be very difficult for an underage (under-17), who hasn’t bowled more than 16 overs a day and 6 overs in a row, to be fit to play these games.
3- Hence should they ignore / not select underage players to play first class cricket ?
4- When does a fast bowler peak ? Fast bowlers feel they are in great shape after they reach the age of 25, and excellent when they reach 30.
5- Injuries will always happen- but there is more pressure on underage players playing first class cricket.
6- England have a nice system / program / policy / approach going for them. Whenever their National team travels, they have their second side, called England Lions touring with them. Late last year the England Lions played a few games in India when their National team was playing a test series in India. Next for their tour of NZ, the Lions will be touring Australia and playing a few ODIs against them..
7- This program was born out of their Academy in 2003, when ECB launched is National Cricket Academy at Loughborough University. During that time England had similar problem of fast bowlers breaking down and not match fit. Their county cricket is been the most strenuous tournament for cricketers. There are 18 teams playing 2 Division, and each team plays 16 1st class matches for their main tournament. Other than this, counties play second XI tournament, LOIs, and all this matches are played between the month of April to September. One can throw in International matches in this list (all formats).
8- Australia were the pioneers of the A-side concept and the rotation policy. In the mid 90s they had two sides playing. Interestingly, before every home series, they would play a few games against each other. A pool of 30 players was there to be picked for the national duty. So if any bowler broke down, his replacement, who is no stranger to the national side (as he has already played with them), stepped in.
9- Currently the Australia rotation policy is not working because of the following reasons :
a) Players often don’t play together (unless they are from the same state or the BBL teams) like they used to in the mid 90s.
b) Although players, who are picked, are in prime form, they fail to perform to their potential once they are playing together at International level, due to lack of co-ordination (with each other). This is clearly noticed when they are batting together or while fielding. Even players who have played together in past but haven’t been lately, face a similar problem – For example, Hughes & Warner as an opening pair never had a problem when they batted together for NSW in 2009. But now, when they play together for Australia in the TEST/ODI, they have a communication problem.
The solutions to the above could be as follows :
a) They should apply this A-side concept at home. At least 4 to 5 games (i.e. 2 day games, 50 over a side & 20 over a side) should be played prior to a home series.
d) They should pick bowlers between the ages 20-27, who have 50 plus first class games of experience.
e) Their sports scientists should look at peak performances of their fast-bowlers (past bowlers could be a good example) and find out the ages of their minimum injuries.
f) Underage level tournaments should be played over 5-days.
g) Their state teams should be aware of what is happening at the underage level and should have full access to their training report and workload.
Finally, I do believe that this Rotation Policy is the correct way forward for cricket to grow. A day will come when a player will be selected, purely on his performance (or on his merit), and not the format he has played or has experience in (and irrespective of the color of the ball).