We’ve all probaby felt this at some point. Most of the time for us, it’s burn-out from work (for me it’s too frequently from cricket admin). Too much time in the office, managers expecting too much and clients thinking that your life revolves around them.
That feeling of drowning or complete emptiness and mental exhaustion. The complete lack of motivation and the inability to care any more. We all experience these things differently and express them differently too but it seemed a very uniform expression of burn out from the India Cricket team against New Zealand on Sunday at the Dubai Cricket Stadium.
It was always going to be a difficult start to the tournament. The first two games being the biggest against Pakistan and New Zealand (two of my favourite oppositions actually), I was thrilled that we were in this group! I was so looking forward to some competitive international cricket to finish off what had been an unreasonably good summer of cricket.
I had gotten myself down to Lord’s Day 1 to see a magnificent 100 from KL Rahul, followed up by one of the best day’s of cricket I had ever witnessed in my life on Day 5 as India rolled England over for 120. I was then fortunate enough to bask in the glorious sun at day 4 and 5 at the Oval as India pulled off another incredible win, spearheaded (to my surprise) by Umesh Yadav.
This was then followed up by a superb 2nd half to IPL 2021. My all-time favourite franchise cricket tournament by a country mile. Full of spectacular knocks from Venkatesh Iyer and Ruturaj Gaikwad and incredible bowling performances from Harshal Patel and Avesh Khan. It was clear that India had too much talent in their ranks.
How could they possibly lose the T20 World Cup ?!
I was sitting there so confident in my thoughts that India were the strongest contenders for the WC title. This was our time. How could it not be?! We had just beaten England in England, MS Dhoni had just pulled off a fairytale comeback win with the Chennai Super Kings after a disappointing 2020 series. It was meant to be. It was carved long ago on ancient stone that India would win the 2021 T20 Cricket World Cup and I’m 100% sure that I wasn’t the only one thinking this.
How could anyone have expected two huge losses for India? being beaten by 10 wickets as Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan cruised through to India’s target of 151 with 13 balls remaining and then being beaten by 8 wickets as Trent Boult, Ish Sodi, Daryll Mitchell and Kane Williamson, in essence, took New Zealand through to the play-offs and all but knocked India out of the running..
But maybe we should have expected it.
It was clear on the field in both games that India were not themselves. They looked tired and weary. There was no magic. The fire that we had seen earlier in the Summer in England had burnt to ash. India’s bowling attack looked blunt and their batting looked fragile. From the expression on Virat Kohli’s face as he hit the ball straight down Martin Guptil’s throat, it was clear something was very wrong.
Team India had gone straight from the quickest Test series (even I couldn’t believe the amount of space between games), straight into the IPL and then a week later into a World Cup. Now I’m not trying to make excuses for them, there were definitely other contributing factors to the losses and a lot of other international players also competed in the IPL and remained for the World Cup. But were India ever given the option to step away? What support were they given to manage all of this? Even with all of that how can we expect 100% for a team that have been on the road for 6+ months.
Even with the right support it can be hard to really step away. To truly get the break you need when the world is always watching you. This is their ‘job’ 24/7. For most of us, we get to come home everyday from work and wind down, we step away from it all, return to family and do the things we choose to do. What choice do they have? It’s either this or don’t play for India.
We expect so much from the men in blue. We put them on a pedestal and treat them as our heroes. Of course they are and always will be but they’re only human. How can we expect so much from a team that have lived and travelled the world in a tiny bubble, constantly drained by protocols and procedures there were ironically put in place to protect them.
Can you imagine the amount of mental strain on someone like Mohammad Shami? A man who has served India for so long and given everything he has for the badge to receive the abuse he did. For him to then to not be able to go home to family or friends and then out onto the field and have to perform his absolute best in a must win match. Could any of us have done it?
I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the tournament. I’m expecting some fiercely competitive play-off games and I couldn’t be more excited. I am of course disappointed that India most likely will not be there.. but maybe this will finally give them the time and freedom they need to reignite their fire.