India’s Workload Management ft. Jasprit Bumrah

It has been a weird Test series for the Indian cricket team. The movement of players in and out of the squad, which has trickled down to the Playing XI combinations too, has been a far from ideal situation.

From the initial squad announced on January 12 for the first two Tests, Virat Kohli has withdrawn due to personal reasons, Shreyas Iyer has been dropped, KL Rahul is injured, Jasprit Bumrah has been rested and Avesh Khan has been mysteriously released. There have been reinforcements in Akash Deep, Washington Sundar, Rajat Patidar, and Saurabh Kumar, now released, but the squad has mostly worn an unsettled look.

The unsettledness, however, hasn’t affected how the team has performed so far in the series. 2-1 up in the five-Test affair, it has been a nearly perfect campaign but it could well be tested since they have rested Bumrah, their premier fast bowler. Just when India had an opportunity to go all in with the ace up their sleeve, they folded and will now hope to get their moves right with the cards at their disposal.

Workload management was the keyword when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) issued a media advisory on Bumrah and the same was echoed by batting coach Vikram Rahour earlier in the day. As per the batting coach, Bumrah was “absolutely fine” but the management felt he should get a break.

“We would love Bumrah to play all the games, but unfortunately that is not very advisable because the kind of workload he has had in the last three games is really bowled well and with a lot of heart, a lot of effort, and the kind of schedule we have in the future.

“So it was felt by everybody involved that he should be given a break. And otherwise, he was fine absolutely, He was absolutely fine physically. But it was felt that it is better that he gets a break because there was hardly any turnaround time between the games,” says Rathour when asked about the decision to rest Bumrah.

But, where was the load?

The word from the Indian camp has been consistent with regards to Bumrah and everyone has been on the same page on him getting rest. But, did he really need rest? Especially since there wasn’t any niggle or fitness-related concern?

The seamer has played all three Tests in the series so far and has bowled 81 overs. The bulk of those overs – 33.1 – came in the 2nd Test in Visakhapatnam after which there was a ten-day gap. Bumrah didn’t turn up for any of the three practice sessions preceding the Rajkot Test and directly bowled on Day 2 of the fixture.

Even in that game, he bowled a total of 23 overs and also had an extra day because of the Day 4 finish. The numbers don’t add up to suggest load but the management went ahead to rest him for what potentially is a series-sealing opportunity.

Enough gaps between assignments

Since returning to action after the long injury lay-off, Bumrah has had enough time to recover between assignments. His return happened in T20Is vs Ireland where he bowled a total of eight overs in the two T20Is of the three-match series. Between the last Ireland T20I, which was washed out, and the first match of Asia Cup, which marked the return of seamer in ODIs, there was another 10-day gap and the first game vs Pakistan was a rain-affected fixture where India didn’t get an opportunity to bowl.

In the three games he played in the tournament, Bumrah bowled 17 overs and was rested for two games vs Bangladesh and Nepal respectively. Moving further on, the focus shifted to the ODI World Cup which saw India travel to different cities and Bumrah bowled most of his bowling since return from injury. A total of 91.5 overs were sent down by the crafty seamer.

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The World Cup final was played on November 19 and Bumrah was on a break after that and directly featured in the Boxing Day Test vs South Africa. In the two-Test series, the 30-year-old bowled a total of 48 overs before another mini-break happened ahead of the England Tests. The load looks very evenly spread in the last seven months and that’s why the move to rest in the middle of a series, especially when he was “absolutely fine”, has come as a surprise.

A quick look at others

Before looking too far and deep into the international arena, James Anderson is an excellent case study. Yes, he hasn’t played a lot of cricket before the India series but has bowled a lot – 73 overs – in the last two Tests. It is 16.9 overs more than Bumrah did in those two games.

Even after sending down those many overs, he is ready and was included in England’s XI for the Ranchi Test. No wonder Stokes lavished praise on the 41-year-old at the pre-match presser.

“For every fast bowler growing up, James Anderson could be the ideal role model,” says Stokes.

There are multiple examples of other premium fast bowlers doing the same. The trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood is the one that stands out. Not going too far back and taking the Ashes and World Test Championship final into consideration, but just the recent months have seen them play the Test series vs West Indies, Pakistan and they have also turned up for the ongoing T20Is vs New Zealand.

READ MORE: Curious Case of KL Rahul’s Absence from India Test Squad

While Hazlewood wasn’t picked at the IPL mini-auction due to availability constraints, both Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins were the top buys and will turn up for Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad in the cash-rich league starting next month.

Bumrah is an asset in this line-up but the over-protectiveness of the think-tank, especially ahead of a crucial fixture, has raised plenty of eyebrows and made the situation weirder.

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