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Jasprit Bumrah was keen to play all five Tests against England but got rested for Ranchi by decision-makers

Bumrah isn’t the first pacer India have rested this series. Mohammed Siraj sat out the second Test in Visakhapatnam even though the hosts trailed 0-1

Workload management. That’s become the latest catchphrase in modern-day cricket, a phrase that draws a flinch and a frown from many of the legends of the game who can’t come to grips with how players are ‘rested’ during an important series.

India’s Jasprit Bumrah has been released from the squad for the 4h Test(PTI)

It’s with the management of his workload in mind that series-leading India have released pace sensation Jasprit Bumrah ahead of the fourth Test against England, beginning in Ranchi on Friday. In a series expected to be dominated by the spinners, the vice-captain has been the most potent bowling force. Alongside rookie England left-arm spinner Tom Hartley, Bumrah leads the wicket-takers’ charts with 16 scalps. But where Hartley averages 33.18 and has taken a wicket every 59.7 deliveries, Bumrah’s corresponding figures are 13.64 and 28.5 respectively. Simply wow.

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Bumrah isn’t the first pacer India have rested this series. Mohammed Siraj sat out the second Test in Visakhapatnam even though the hosts trailed 0-1 and the Hyderabadi had bowled a mere 11 overs in the first Test at his home ground. Bizarrely, however, Siraj did travel with the team to Visakhapatnam and bowled full tilt at the nets two days out from the game, before flying back to Hyderabad to rest and recuperate. Perhaps not having played any representative cricket makes it harder to see the logic in that sequence of events.

In a Test career spanning 15 and a half years and 131 matches, the great Kapil Dev sent down 27,740 deliveries, to go with 11,202 in 225 One-Day Internationals. In all, in first-class (48,853) and List A 50-over (14,947) action, the all-rounder supreme delivered 63,800 balls, nearly two-thirds of them on unresponsive pitches in the subcontinent and oftentimes without adequate pace support. Kapil didn’t feel the need for ‘rest’ to recuperate and recharge, no one felt the need to manage his workload. For good measure, he hardly missed a game through injury.

Times have changed, of course. Those espousing the workload management cause will point to the absurdity of the non-comparison and point out just how much more cricket is being played these days compared to when Kapil was still active. They are right, of course. Especially with the advent of the T20 format, the demands on today’s cricketers, and especially the faster bowlers, are manifold. It is imperative to ensure that players don’t burn out quickly or pick up niggles that snowball into major injuries but wrapping them up in cotton wool isn’t the answer either.

For the sake of convenience, let’s use the final of the 50-over World Cup on November 19 as the reference point. Since then, in three months, Siraj has played two T20Is and four Tests. In the 20-over games in South Africa in December, he sent down six overs. In the two-Test series, he bowled 42. Throw in the 11 overs in Hyderabad, and in all competitive play, the 29-year-old quick had bowled 59 overs – that’s 354 balls – when he was rested in Visakhapatnam. Even accounting for the recovery and the travel, surely that should not go down as a humongous amount?

Five Tests in seven weeks is a huge ask on players of all hues; for the pacers, the challenges and demands are massive. Sometimes, a break away from the drudgery of practice and travel, more than actual match play, can weigh an individual down mentally. Resources need to be managed and handled with care and it becomes incumbent upon the brains’ trust to ensure that champion performers are not bowled to the ground. But does Bumrah feel overworked? Hindustan Times has reliably learnt that he was keen on playing all five Tests – perhaps influenced by the two eight-day breaks at the end of the second and fourth matches – but in their collective wisdom, the decision-makers have given him the Ranchi week off. The sighs of relief from the England camp are still reverberating around Rotorua and Reading, Perth and Pretoria.

Since the ill-fated World Cup final against Australia, the 30-year-old has played only Test cricket – five matches on the bounce from December 26 to February 18. A total of 129.1 overs spread across South Africa and India have fetched him 29 wickets, including 17 in 80.5 overs in the ongoing series. After the Ranchi Test is the second long break of the tour, before the teams reassemble in Dharamsala for the finale. The reputation of the mountain-top venue as a pace haven might have influenced India’s decision to rest Bumrah for Ranchi and unleash him in Dharamsala as much as the engagements ahead – the IPL from March to May and the T20 World Cup in the Americas in June. Or at least that’s what one surmises.


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