Virat Kohli will be rested for the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka and with good reason.
The Indian captain is having an unprecedented year and has scored ten centuries. But the high level of constant cricket comes at a cost.
Since his international debut in 2008, Kohli has played 32 international matches a year across all formats. MS Dhoni played 34 matches a year on average.
Compared to their predecessors like Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, both of whom played 13 and 26 matches a year respectively, today’s Indian players feature in more games.
The uptick in part is due to the frequency of limited overs cricket. Admittedly, the T20 format is not as taxing as the others, but it’s still an extra match that today’s players participate in.
The most punishing part of an Indian cricketer’s calendar is the two month-long Indian Premiere League. It’s hard to pass-up the financially lucrative tournament for any player, but it could come at the cost of a player’s physicality.
On average, players like Kohli and Dhoni play between 15-20 matches during the IPL and often end-up in the business end of the tournament. It accounts for nearly a quarter of all their matches in a calendar year.
Including the IPL season, Kohli plays about 45 matches a year on average, and this year he’s already played 55.
This year is perhaps Kohli’s most taxing as Indian captain with 45 international appearances which included ten Test matches.
His Test match schedule is ordinary for a player consistently in the Indian squad, but as the hardest format, his commitment to the shorter formats could pose problems for the longer one. For the moment, they have not but it doesn’t mean it will be long before he will have to choose.
By and large, most athletes go through one major injury during their careers. Kohli has been fortunate in this instance, in part due to his relentless pursuit of being the fittest cricketer on the field but then they said the same thing about Novak Djokovic before injury stopped him in his stride.
No cricketer in the world plays as much and Kohli has the added burden of the Indian captaincy. The physical and mental taxation of the job is unparalleled and to date, which Kohli has handled it deftly. But even his body has its limits.
The longevity of Kohli’s career won’t depend on just his ability to score back-to-back centuries, but his choices to take breaks from the game without the fear of retribution from broadcasters and selectors. He should, indeed, take a leaf out of Roger Federer’s book. The greatest tennis player in history knows the importance of rest and recovery and we could all see what that did for him in 2017.