Former champions Uruguay and France are through to the round of 16 in the football World Cup and another champion side Argentina are on the brink of a group-stage exit unless they work out a miracle with other results coming to their rescue.
Amidst football commotion and excitement, the Indian cricket team have arrived in England for their tours of Ireland and England. At the customary media conference before the departure, skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri backed the Yo-Yo, saying the fitness test is essential for the team to meet the stiff challenges on the tour.
Timing perfectly, Anirudh Chaudhry, treasurer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), sprang a surprise by dashing off a well-drafted eight-page letter to the Committee of Administrators (COA), asking who authorised the Yo-Yo test and sought clarifications on other connected issues.
First football. There is a marked slump in the quality of football witnessed in the first week of the World Cup in Russia, or so it appears. Is it the result of watching these top stars playing in best club combinations in Europe or the quadrennial event is becoming a poor advertisement for the sport with such surfeit of football?
Or is it what India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi observed on changing climatic conditions? He once told school children that the reality is that in our family some people are old and their ability to bear cold becomes less with each passing year and that there are no serious fluctuations in the weather.
Likewise, it is just that the people who have seen world football ever since colour television entered the Indian living rooms are perhaps unable to appreciate the changing face of football right now.
Way back in 1982 the Indians for the first time witnessed the semi-finals and the final of a World Cup live on Doordarshan and in 1986 the entire championship was shown. It was then that people realised that what they were seeing in India, particularly in the highly-rated Calcutta league, was not the real football and started debunking it.
The World Cup is 10 days old and the the group play is in its final stages. Russia, Uruguay, France, Croatia are into the round of 16 with two straight victories while for the same reason Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Costa Rica are packing their bags to go home. But before that, they can make or mar some team’s chances of making the knockout rounds.
Football fans in India have two Latin American teams, Brazil and Argentina. For them the two are the ultimate in football. Brazil are breathing easy after their hard-fought 2-0 victory over Costa Rica, both goals coming in the overtime, just as Germany are. Argentina are keeping their fingers crossed whereas the other seeded teams look good to make the grade.
Plenty of football still to be played in Russia.
The Indian cricketers are also on a long tour of England on a much tighter schedule of Three Twenty20s, three One-Day Internationals and finally five Tests. The Yo-Yo fitness test is not leaving the Indian team management as two in-form batsmen, Ambati Rayudu from the ODIs and Sanju Samson from India’s A tour of England, failed to clear the fitness test.
For such an extended tour the players need to be fit as both Kohli and Ravi Shastri emphasised. Ravi thundered that to enhance the ability a player needs to be fit. And to rub it in, as Rayudu and Samson cool their heels in the summer heat, Shastri insists Yo-Yo is here to stay, it’s not a one-off thing.
‘The philosophy is simple. You pass the test, you play. You don’t, you sit. So this is not going to go anywhere. The captain leads from the front, the selectors and the team management are on the same page,’ Shastri cleared the air, or has he? No, Chaudhry has his doubts and he triggered a debate with former players jumping in.
Chaudhry writing a letter to COA means the BCCI itself does not know when and how the Yo-Yo has become a criterion for a player’s selection and who cleared it.
He sarcastically asks the COA, is it true that Yo-Yo is a criterion for the selection of a player. If so, who took the decision and what’s the rationale behind it.
He goes on to ask who is responsible and accountable for the two players’ rehabilitation and what are the head physio at the NCA and the physio of the Indian cricket team doing?
Speaking like a fitness expert, Chaudhry says his understanding is that ‘there are various parameters for optimum fitness. i.e. speed, strength endurance, flexibility, agility, explosive strength, reaction tests, aerobic fitness. Is it the case that we are testing only for aerobic fitness and neglecting the rest of the parameters?’
Even the acknowledged fitness experts and physios differ over Yo-Yo being the only test required for testing fitness of a cricketer. In that case who is responsible for Rayudu and Samson missing out on a crucial tour?
Kohli may be the fittest player, but the well-built experts in the support staff may not inspire the players!
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])