The Effects of ECB’s Rotation Policy
ECB, English and Wales Cricket Board, has adopted a rotation policy to safeguard players from burnout, especially in times of pandemic, with the players spending a substantial amount of time in the bubble. They started it when the English team returned to professional sport once cricket recommenced, starting with their tour of West Indies and then Sri Lanka and continued the same on the long tour of India. Let’s take a look at the effects of this rotation policy, its significance in recent times, divided opinions of former and current players, coaches and the cricketing world in general.
The Need for ECB’s Rotation Policy
The year 2020 was spent without much professional cricket and thus, many cricketing boards, including ECB, have been ready for a pretty hectic year in 2021. After the tour of India, England will have a long home summer hosting New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India followed by World-T20 and then Ashes at the end of the year. Add to it the formalities of quarantine and spending time in a bubble all the time, which means the players have very little space to breathe. To manage the workload, ECB came up with a rotation policy where the players will be rested irrespective of the form they are in or the importance of the upcoming game. They have named it the “squad rotation policy”.
Players Rested due to Rotation Policy
The squad rotation policy has been in place since the West Indies tour. Even before the end of the successful tour of Sri Lanka, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran and Mark Wood were scheduled to be sent home and were set to miss the first two Tests in India. Bairstow was the second-highest run-scorer for England behind captain Root, while Wood and Curran had a decent outing in Sri Lanka.
It was a brave decision to make on the part of Ed Smith, especially with Bairstow, for a tour as crucial as India’s with a place in the World Test Championship final on the line. Even Jos Buttler was set to go home after the first Test in Chennai. Speaking of the great pace duo – Stuart Broad and James Anderson, ECB have opted to give them a single game on the trot to effectively manage their declining fitness. This meant resting James Anderson for an all-important 2nd Test in Chennai when England had their tail up after a win in the first Test.
Effects of ECB’s Rotation Policy so far
No decision is ever criticised when a team performs well. England had a tremendous outing in Sri Lanka whitewashing them at their den. They got good practice at the subcontinental conditions for the much tougher challenges in India. India’s tour became even more important because Australia pulling out of the South Africa tour gave New Zealand a direct entry into the finals. With only one spot to fill and England needing to win at least 3 Tests against India, they needed to play their best lineup in India in all Tests. With in-form Bairstow gone, the batting already looked weaker. However, England pulled off a massive win to defeat India on the back of an awesome double century by captain Joe Root and a decisive exhibition of swing bowling from James Anderson.
Things began to change after the second Test against India. While Root continued to play, Anderson was rested as a part of rotation policy and Jofra Archer missed out because of an injury. Dom Bess, who had success in the first Test, was also rested due to consistency issues. Olly Stone and Stuart Broad came in as pacers while Moeen Ali replaced Dom Bess. Ali bowled well and was among the wickets in helping conditions but Stone and Broad did not have the same impact as Anderson and Archer as England slumped to a 317-run defeat – their highest defeat by runs against India.
Now, Moeen Ali has been rested for the third Test. He looked good with the ball and solid with the bat in the second innings. What will this cost England? Only time will tell.
Reactions to the Squad Rotation Policy
While the cricketing world, especially fans and former players, are not happy with the rotation policy, many English players including but not limited to Jofra Archer have been vocal about their support.
Jofra believes that people opposing the rotation policy have never been in a bubble themselves. He says that humans are social beings and getting out of the bubble now and then would help them benefit psychologically and effectively improve their performance on the field. He insists it is essential for players to go out, get refreshed, come back and perform for their country.
Former cricketer David Gower suggested that the rotation policy would hurt England in the important series such as against India and could cost them a place in the World Championship final to be played at Lords’ later this year.
How Could It Have Been Done Better?
While bio-bubble is not going to go away soon and looking at England’s itinerary this year, the squad rotation policy makes complete sense. However, ECB could have been selective about it so that they get to play their best XI in the crucial games. Anderson missing a game when England needed 3 wins in India was not a good call especially in the absence of Archer. It is difficult for new players to come in and perform right away. A little flexibility would have gone a long way to ensure they meet their goal and players get time off as well.
While ECB’s squad rotation policy is the need of the hour, it may have already cost them a place in the WTC final and would continue to do so in future series as well. There’s no denying that players are to be looked after. But at the same time, you need to do everything possible to reach your goal as a professional sports team.
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