Virat Kohli has quietened speculation over whether IPL franchises have been asked to “manage” the workloads of India players who are likely to be part of the World Cup squad, saying no instructions have been issued to cap the number of games a player would take part in.
“You cannot put a cap on anything,” Kohli said in Bengaluru, at an event to launch a new app for Royal Challengers Bangalore, his IPL franchise. “If I’m able to play 10, 12 or 15 games, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other guy can only play that many. My body might demand I play a certain number of games and I need to be smart about that and rest. Someone else’s body might be more capable than mine or less, that is a very individual thing. And everyone wants to play the World Cup, so people will be smart about it because you don’t want to miss out on such a big event.”
Kohli emphasised that the responsibility for managing workloads lay with the players themselves.
“From a responsibility point of view, all the Indian players will have the responsibility during the IPL to keep a watch on their fitness and their workloads,” he said. “And to continue the frame of mind we have created in the Indian team – strive towards excellence and improve every day. Each player will take this tournament as an opportunity to go to the World Cup in a good frame of mind.”
While Kohli said it was left up to players when they would want to play or rest, Ashish Nehra, the former Indian bowler and joint coach of RCB, said playing in the IPL would give players an advantage leading up to the World Cup, and that prolonged rest before the tournament could be counterproductive.
“If somebody tells Virat Kohli that you are not playing this IPL, come fresh for the World Cup, I don’t think it’s the right way,” Nehra said. “If he’s only practising, that practice is different [from match play]. The IPL is a pressure tournament, it is as good as international cricket, that’s why everybody wants to play. So you are going to the World Cup through that pressure. If I’m a bowler, I keep bowling yorkers or good-length balls, it’s the same thing I have to do in the World Cup.
“There’s a three-week gap between the IPL final and India’s first game [at the World Cup]. If you’re not injured, three weeks is enough time. If someone tells me, ‘You bowl in the IPL final today and then for the next three weeks you don’t bowl, and then bowl straightaway against South Africa’ – I would not like to do that. Active rest is very important, not just for fast bowlers but for everyone.
“It doesn’t matter how tired Virat Kohli is… he might stay away from the nets for maybe a week, or ten days at the most. The last 11 days, he will want to have seven-eight sessions. The more you play the better you get. I can understand if the IPL final is on the 12th and the first World Cup game is on the 16th, you might feel [Jasprit] Bumrah or Bhuvneshwar [Kumar] or Mohammed Shami [might need to be rested]. Some bowlers come up to me and say, ‘We are fresh; the more we play the better we feel.’ Some won’t say that. Everyone is different.”
Gary Kirsten, RCB’s other coach, agreed with Nehra.
“We do understand all the international players, apart from the Indians, will be called back to their internationals teams anyway through the IPL,” Kirsten said. “We have to accept there’s not much we can do about that. We understand the demands that an international player has. We’ll be very reasonable in that space.
“And Ashish has made a good point: if you get yourself match-ready during the IPL, that’s going to hold you in really good stead during the World Cup. I think it’s an advantage to the Indian players, actually. Because the IPL is such a pressurised tournament, it’s great preparation for the World Cup.”
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.