Mahendra Dhoni has lost hair - and greyed in a matter of a few years. The stress has taken its toll. Has he lost the plot? | Image courtesy - firstpost.com | Click for source image.
The poor Indian cricket fan
The inexplicable collapse of the India’s cricket team on the English and the Australian tours has evoked usual ‘explanations’ and standard ‘solutions’.
Losing 4 test matches in England and the first 3 test matches in Australia for a world champion team needs more than usual ‘explanations’ and standard ‘solutions’.
The answer is staring in the face – but strangely, no one is talking of that. Before coming to the answer let us look at current debate.
Duncan Fletcher is the problem
Many commentators include Duncan Fletcher in the problem area – and credit Gary Kirsten, the previous coach with all the successes. Logically, if Gary Kirsten was so good, South Africa, his new team would not give the standard performance that they did against Sri Lanka.
In fact, Sri Lanka won their first ever test in South Africa – after Gary Kirsten became the South African coach.
Similarly, there is no evidence that Duncan Fletcher has done anything that can explain this non-performance.
The poor Indian cricket fan is bewildered by this turn in performance. | Cartoon by Ajit Ninan. Source and courtesy - ksurendran.wordpress.com | Click for larger image.
Senior players must be axed
Knives are out for two of the three senior players in the team, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Their stupendous performance till the 2011 world cup was the talk of town – and it believed that they would go on for ever.
Critics also forget that the selectors did drop a senior like Harbhajan – who was usually a ‘performer’ against the Australians.
This seniors-must-be-axed theory also does not explain the non-performance by younger players.
Indians hash their trips abroad
Indian cricket team does not have a good record of wins in overseas locations.
This is usually related to the fact that pitches and playing conditions are different – and unless adequate warm-up games are played, players have difficulties in adjusting to the new playing conditions. Weather, food, and social life play are a part in this.
This argument has some merit. Gary Kirsten did take an unusual step of sending Rahul Dravid and (and VVS Laxman), if the I remember correctly, early to South Africa for acclimatization.
Kris Srikanth must work on the principle of two peaks in 18 months | Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; source and courtesy - timescontent.com | Click for larger source image.
Dhoni is not the captain that he was
There is also a small section of thinking that puts Dhoni in the problem basket.
Apart from nit-picking, there is little evidence that Dhoni has handled the team and resources badly. Putting up more than 350 runs only once in the last 7 overseas tests is evidence of a performance problem.
And not a captaincy problem.
There is also the general ‘BCCI is the root of all evil’ theory – which is neither here nor there.
Then there are those who do a mix-and-match of the above three parameters. Plus there are others who think that since cricketers are over-paid glamor boys, having made their money, they finally don’t care.
Solutions for this non-performance also flow from the above definitions. These solutions range from getting younger players, planning for more trips abroad, prepare fast pitches in India, change the captain, et al.
Since non-performance is the issue, performance management is what we will need to look at.
BCCI has not seen two years in the future and accounted for 'peaking' of the cricket team. | Cartoon source & courtesy - timescontent.com | Click for source image.
Indian Cricket calendar
The Indian cricket team has played 6 significant tournaments in calendar year 2011 – South Africa, World Cup, IPL, England, West Indies – and now in Australia.
Five of these six tournaments (against South Africa, World Cup, IPL, England and Australia) were with world class teams and players – except against a sapped and depleted West Indies team. In between these tournaments, they have had a break of 1-2 weeks.
A usual factory worker, gets nearly 100 days off in a year in a predictable manner. Compared to that Indian team players have got 60 days of break in a 365 days. Rest of the time, they have been in a multi-week contests.
Achieving peak performance
In tennis, 3 of the four Grand Slam events in tennis are clumped together in 120 days of May-September of each year. As a result,
A number of high-achievement players have failed to achieve the Career Grand Slam. Björn Borg never won the US Open or the Australian Open. John McEnroe never won the Australian Open or the French Open. Ken Rosewall, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl, Monica Seles, Mats Wilander, and Justine Henin failed to win Wimbledon. Pete Sampras, John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Martina Hingis, and Lindsay Davenport failed to win the French Open. Evonne Goolagong Cawley never won the US Open, and Helen Wills Moody and Althea Gibson never won the Australian Open. (via Grand Slam (tennis) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; accessed on 15th January, 2011 @14:30 IST).
After years of lack of Grand Slam winners, in 1982 the International Tennis Federation (ITF) relaxed the definition of Grand Slam winner. From winning all 4 tournaments in a calendar year, to consecutive winner, which may spread over a period of two calendar years.
Even after the easier definition, no male tennis players has made the grade of a grand slam in a non-calendar yea. Rod Laver remains the most recent male grand-slam winner in 1969 – more than 40 years ago.
Looking at this picture of over-played cricketers, Indian fans can take heart … and some hope.
Now let us look at what sports performance management theory says.
Performance management theory
Over the last 50 years, sports has worked on the principle that sportsmen must prepare for a peak in a year.
Keep in mind that you can have many “peaks” during the year and during the season, but most elite athletes aim for one primary event or goal, and plan the rest of the training season around that. Recreational athletes can easily have multiple peaks of a lesser degree. This is common if you race many different “fun runs” during the summer. If you are on a recreational league or team you probably have a built-in season, and your training is planned so you continually improve and peak during play-offs or a final event. (via Race Day Preparation – How to Peak for Races and Events).
Sports trainers refer to this system of training as ‘periodization.’
Periodization is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period.
Training should be organized and planned in advance of a competition or performance. It should consider the athlete’s potential, his/her performance in tests or competition, and calendar of competition.
The annual plan is important in that it directs and guides athletic training over a year. It is based on the concept of periodization and the principles of training.
This phase consists of the general preparation and specific preparation. Usually the general preparation is the longer of the two phases.
This phase may contain a few main competitions each containing a pre-competitive and a main competition. Within the main competition, an uploading phase and a special preparatory phase may be included.
This phase is used to facilitate psychological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration as well as to maintain an acceptable level of general physical preparation. This phase lasts between 3 – 4 weeks (maybe longer) but should not exceed 5 weeks under normal conditions. (via Sports periodization – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.).