Kohli calls for player power in scheduling on eve of ODI series

India's captain Virat Kohli addresses media representatives during a press conference at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on July 8, 2019, ahead of their 2019 Cricket World Cup semi-final match against New Zealand. (Photo by Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

PUNE: India skipper Virat Kohli on Monday said players should be consulted over the cricket calendar as the extended bubble life during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has strengthened fears of burnout.

With India headed into three One-day Internationals against England starting in Pune on Tuesday after winning a gruelling Test series 3-1 and Twenty20 International series 3-2, Kohli said more attention must be paid to cricketers’ mental health.

“The players need to be spoken to and consulted with all round,” said Kohli. “Otherwise it’s going to be a case of whoever can last through difficult times like this plays, if not then move away and someone else replaces that player.”

He added: “I don’t think that’s healthy for a cricket system and cricket culture moving forward which we definitely want to make stronger and stronger.”

Responding to suggestions that the 50-over games were out of place in a year dominated by the World Test Championship final and the T20 World Cup, Kohli said: “Tournament scheduling is something that is not in our control. I think it’s very important to consider how much cricket you are playing. It’s not just the physical side of thing but the mental side of things as well.

“Scheduling and workloads is something that everyone will have to be very aware,” he added. “Especially in today’s day and age where you just don’t know where restrictions might come in.”

Most players have been in secure bubbles, with only small breaks since last August. From September until January, India’s players went through the Indian Premier League and a tour of Australia.

Kohli though stayed away from the debate of England’s rest and rotate policy in the pandemic, saying it was their ‘internal’ matter.

But the Indian superstar slammed the ‘umpire’s call’ in the game’s decision review system, saying it creates ‘confusion’.

The decision of an on-field umpire is critical when a batting or bowling side opts for a TV review during a leg before wicket call.

The batter escapes lbw even if the tracker shows the ball would have hit the stumps if a large part of the ball was not hitting the stumps and the on-field official had ruled it not out.

“The umpire’s call right now is creating lot of confusion,” said Kohli. “When you get bowled as a batsman you don’t expect the ball to hit 50 per cent into the stumps to consider yourself bowled, so when the ball is being shown as clipping the stumps the bails are going to fall.”

Meanwhile England captain Eoin Morgan said the ODI series will be a fresh opportunity for players to make the case for T20 World Cup places.

Morgan and head coach Chris Silverwood say the tour is still providing valuable lessons about the tough conditions in the country where the T20 World Cup will be staged in October-November.

“And more will be learned from the ODIs in Pune,” said Morgan. “Given the World Cup round the corner, playing any international cricket at all is a huge opportunity for guys who have been on the fringes and not made selection so far.”

Apart from the loss of injured fast bowler Jofra Archer, the England ODI squad is little different to the T20 selection.

But Morgan said Sam Billings, Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali will all be in contention for a place in the team to be announced ahead of the first match.

England are reigning 50-over champions and Morgan said they must prove their worth on the hard, dusty wickets.

“The challenge for us is always trying to explore and push the limits as much as we can given the conditions,” said Morgan. “In conditions that are little bit alien to us naturally, like India, it’s always nice to get out of your comfort zone and learn more about your team and your players to try and make mistakes and learn from them.”

Joe Root’s England also lost the Test series and Morgan insisted that an ODI victory would not compensate for the earlier losses. “You don’t always have to win every series in order to win a World Cup. You continuously need to get better, need to be tested as a side, need to fail in order to learn. That involves losing, which isn’t fun but it is part of the journey.”

All-rounder Ben Stokes will be back in the ODI team after playing the hero’s role in the World Cup win against New Zealand at Lord’s in July 2019.

Morgan said having Stokes back in ODI colours is always a boost. “It’s great to have him back. Any opportunity we have to get him in a white-ball game, which has been few and far between, is brilliant. I think he really enjoys his white-ball cricket and it’s important to keep him engaged with that.