Monday, 30th October 2017

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MSK: Virat's been playing almost non-stop, he is absolutely drained

High-profile Asia Cup features Pak, so captain could have been rested for WI Tests

By LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI in Calcutta
  • Published 2.09.18
  •  
Virat Kohli

Calcutta: The senior national selectors'-scripted "workload management" protocol for the 2019 World Cup has kicked in, with India captain Virat Kohli rested for the Asia Cup.

Had the Asia Cup been a low-key tournament like the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka, towards the end of the 2017-2018 season, the decision wouldn't have evoked much discussion.

The September 15-28 Asia Cup, however, features Pakistan and, whether one likes it or not, India vs Pakistan games continue to mean just about everything on both sides of the border.

That being so, unless Virat has a major problem (thankfully, it's not so), he should have been heading to the UAE after England.

The last Test, at The Oval, ends on September 11 and India's first match, in Dubai, is against a qualifier on September 18.

Virat need not have played that game, but taken the field a day later, versus Pakistan.

Nobody disagrees with the principle of managing workload, but to start with the Asia Cup is rather hard to digest. Key players have, in the past, not been rested in series which really have been of no consequence.

It's unthinkable that Pakistan's selectors would have rested the No.1 player, who is also the captain, in a tournament where India's a participant.

Big question is why did the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which is 'hosting' the Asia Cup away from home, keep the itineraries so tight?

Somebody must answer.

"Sometimes, decisions are taken keeping the bigger picture in mind. The World Cup is only eight-nine months away, so workload becomes critical, especially for those who play all three formats," chief selector MSK Prasad told The Telegraph.

Speaking around an hour after he and his colleagues (except Devang Gandhi, who was on a conference call from Southampton) met in Mumbai on Saturday, Prasad added: "The decision to rest Virat, which was set rolling during/after the Nottingham Test, has been a collective one...

"We had a series of discussions and Virat was a part of them...

"Reality is that Virat has been playing almost non-stop, except for about a month from the latter part of May (after the IPL). He's absolutely drained and it is not fair to expect him to keep performing at such a high level...

"A call had to be made. Besides, we have a very important tour of Australia, from November. That's a priority."

Surely, Virat could have been rested in the two-Test series against the West Indies, from October 4... Prasad responded by informing the "workload" factor would come into play when the squads for the Tests, five ODIs and the three T20Is get selected.

Another selector accepted that Virat could have been rested for the two Tests, but he "wasn't a robot and cannot play like one."

Of course, Virat isn't a robot. But, maybe, it wouldn't be out of place to reproduce what he told this Reporter in Dhaka after a smashing 183 versus Pakistan in the 2012 Asia Cup.

The interview had been conducted by the poolside of the Pan Pacific Sonargaon before a gym session.

Here goes: "Obviously, it's different. India-Pakistan matches have always had their history. As kids also, we used to be keen for this huge game. So, that's always been on my mind, that this is a dream match for any cricketer playing for India or Pakistan...

"If you do well, it's going to be a totally different high. I experienced it in the last game (in Mirpur) and it was wonderful...

"Obviously, it was a high-pressure match and you do think about it before the game. Everyone watches, so that sort of comes across your mind and is hard to ignore."

Pretty revealing that from Virat, who one assumes would have relished the challenge of defeating Pakistan, especially after being upset in the 2017 Champions Trophy final.

Indeed, so passionate is Virat that one would expect him to even play on one leg - against Pakistan. That's the aura which has grown around him.

Virat has been a party to what is a massive call by Prasad and Co, but would there also be a "collective decision" with regard to "workload management" during IPL XII, which precedes the 2019 World Cup?

One waits with much anticipation.