Should BCCI intervene to manage Bumrah’s IPL workload before T20 World Cup?

Jasprit Bumrah for MI (Image: IPL); Sanjay Jagdale (Image: MPCA)

Many moons ago, with Indian cricket caught in the quagmire of a club versus country debate, this correspondent had reached out to then BCCI president N Srinivasan for his comment. The question was if, during the IPL, the BCCI could intervene as regards to the injury/workload management of a centrally contracted player? “Of course it can. The BCCI is the boss,” Srinivasan had said in his indomitable style.

Cut to the present and a similar debate is pretty relevant, with the T20 World Cup around the corner. The player in question is Jasprit Bumrah, who is central to India’s chances at the showpiece event. The fast bowler so far has bowled 32 overs in this IPL, over eight matches. He roughly plays every three days (match fatigue plus travel) in this intense summer heat. Bumrah also had surgery last year to cure a lower back stress issue that kept him out for 11 months. Should the BCCI intervene to manage his workload during the IPL?

“Yes, I agree. This should be done in the interest of Indian cricket. He is a centrally contracted cricketer. But I think it would be very difficult for the BCCI. Mumbai Indians are a very strong franchise and I don’t think anybody can influence them,” former BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale told RevSportz.

Jagdale knows the best of both worlds, for not only did he serve as a BCCI office-bearer, he also had his time as a national selector. “A big event like the World Cup has to be the top priority and the IPL, with all due respect, is a domestic tournament. And Bumrah is a special player,” he said.

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Jasprit Bumrah for MI
Jasprit Bumrah for MI (PC: X)

Former India medium pacer Madan Lal, a shining light in the 1983 World Cup-winning team, begged to differ. “I don’t think so. The franchise has paid a lot of money (Rs 12 crore) to acquire the services of the player. Fans come to watch Bumrah play. So, why should the BCCI interfere? In any case, these are things you decide before the start of the tournament, not during the tournament,” Madan Lal, who also worked as the Indian team’s head coach, told RevSportz.

Bumrah is a national treasure. If he breaks down, that sort of puts paid to India’s chances of winning the T20 World Cup. “I think that’s a negative way of thinking. If something happens to Bumrah, that’s bad luck. No sportsman turns up at the ground thinking about what would happen if he picks up an injury. Bumrah is the best judge in terms of managing his workload. He needs to take the call, not someone else,” said the ex-India seamer.

Jagdale, however, is not OK with shifting the onus to Bumrah. “That will put him in an awkward position. The call should be taken by the BCCI. There should be back-channel discussions with the franchise in this regard, for Bumrah must be treated very carefully,” he opined.

The Indian team management prefers to wrap Bumrah in cotton wool, a reason why he was handled with care during the home Test series against England that preceded the IPL. The fast bowler was rested for the Ranchi Test despite the fact that the series wasn’t won yet. “When you can give him rest during a Test series, then why not the IPL?” Jagdale asked.

This season offers a double whammy like 2010. Fourteen years ago, India went to a T20 World Cup in the Caribbean on the heels of an IPL and failed to qualify for the semi-finals. After the tournament, then-India coach Gary Kirsten spoke about how the team lacked energy at the ICC event.

This time, the IPL final will be held on May 26, while India play their T20 World Cup opener against Ireland in New York on June 5. The Pakistan game is on June 9. If MI reach the IPL final, then Bumrah, and the other Indian players in the team, will have a recovery time of less than 10 days before going into a marquee event. That’s far from ideal.

“It cuts both ways,” said WV Raman, the former India batsman and an eminent coach. “If you don’t have any cricket going into the World Cup, people might say the players are rusty. And going into the World Cup on the back of an IPL, people might say there has been an overload of cricket. It’s all about how the cookie crumbles.”

Raman, though, allayed Bumrah’s workload fears. “These things are already taken care of, because people are aware of how important it is to manage the workload of the cricketers, especially fast bowlers. And I think the NCA has been doing a grand job in terms of providing the necessary back-up on workload management, to ensure that these guys stay fit. If an injury happens while playing, you can’t help it. But it’s just a case of ensuring that these guys are well rested (between games).”

Bumrah has been almost single-handedly carrying MI’s bowling this term. A far bigger job lies ahead; leading India’s pace attack at the T20 World Cup. He needs to be in top shape.

Jasprit Bumrah, Rohit Sharma and others for MI
Jasprit Bumrah, Rohit Sharma and others for MI (PC: MI/X)

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