As we move into the last remaining weeks of 2021, followers of Indian cricket prepare for the usual frantic end to the campaign. The matches come thick and fast, with India preparing for the visit of New Zealand in November before touring South Africa in December. There are lots for sports fans to look forward to and plan for but it’s undoubtedly a testing time for the players. The Indian team have already endured a punishing schedule, and critics believe they are starting to show signs of fatigue.
That has called for some former players and pundits to suggest a well-earned rest is in store early next year, but it remains to be seen whether that plea will fall on deaf ears as organisers continue to pack the schedule. From being one of the early favourites to win the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup with the top sports betting apps to the Test Match series against South Africa, there is no sign of a breather on the horizon.
The fear is that pushing the players so hard, cramming seven fixtures between 17 November and 26 December, could result in injuries to the star names, which could rule them out of the most important matches in 2022. Next year is a crucial campaign for Indian cricket as they attempt to return the glory days but to have any chance of achieving that, the squad must be at their strongest throughout.
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India suffer an early exit
A winning streak and some impressive form has helped drag India through their games. The team were seen hammering Afghanistan by 66 runs in the T20 World Cup before making light work of Scotland when beating the minnows of the sport by eight wickets. A third win on the bounce came over Namibia by nine wickets. Those were matches India were expected to win, but the players deserve credit for the way in which they performed, brushing past teams that knew they were underdogs but were hungry to cause an upset and always dangerous.
It wasn’t always plain sailing at the T20 World Cup, as India suffered a hurtful loss to rivals Pakistan earlier in the competition. That Super 12 Group 2 game ended with a ten wickets win for Team Pakistan, who not only beat their rivals, they outplayed and out-fought them for much of the contest. Pakistan were a cut above that day, and, with the benefit of hindsight, followers view that loss as an early warning. One the coaching staff should have taken more notice of at the time.
That was the opinion of team coach Ravi Shastri who was quick to inform members of the world’s press that the players, in his opinion, are drained and in desperate need of a rest. That was the response after seeing his men down Namibia in Dubai to round off what was a disappointing World Cup, one they had been favourites to win. Many respected pundits had India picked to be 2021 World champions, but the players never looked up to the challenge, and the reason for that was mental and physical exhaustion, according to the coach.
Early warning signs
It didn’t take long for the alarm bells to start ringing, with India losing each of their first two games. They were rocked when losing to New Zealand then shot down by that defeat to India. Despite a desperate fightback to win their remaining matches, the World Cup favourites made an early exit, much to the disappointment of fans.
The players will be hurting as much as the supporters after failing to live up to expectations in Dubai, dropping out of the running without putting up much of a fight, but they must dust themselves down. There will be no healing period and no time to feel sorry for themselves.
India return home to renew rivalries with New Zealand on 17th November in a Twenty20 match in Jaipur. After a three-match T20 series, the focus moves to Test Match cricket with the opener on 25th November at Green Park, Kanpur.
The Test Match series against Pakistan begins on 3rd December at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai before moving to Johannesburg and the Imperial Wanderers Stadium.