Jasprit Bumrah's injury triggers nation vs franchise debate, yet again!

The franchise T20 leagues can do more harm than good with workload management, mental fatigue and injury concerns.

Jasprit Bumrah's injury sparked the nation vs franchise debate
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Jasprit Bumrah has featured in five of India's 30 t20Is in 2022 and is doubtful for a few months, including the T20 World Cup 2022. (Photo Source: Twitter)

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Trivandrum - September 28, 2022. The floodlights were on, the curators left some grass on the wicket, and the analysts expected some bite out of the surface. The stage was set. International cricket's extended and much-awaited return to Thiruvananthapuram's Greenfield International Stadium was marked by a swing bowling masterclass on a track with something in it for the seamers in which India steamrolled South Africa to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Arshdeep, who was tipped as the death bowling specialist alongside star pacer Jasprit Bumrah, also delivered with the new ball, making life easier for the 1.3 billion Indian fans. The country was buzzing with the T20 World Cup less than three weeks away. In an era where things could go from the top of a mountain to the bottom of an ocean in a flash, disaster struck India. From being firm favourites to clinch their second T20 World Cup title, India is now in a spot of bother with two of their star players ruled out of the mega event down under. 

Since the introduction of T20 cricket, there has been a shift in International cricket patterns and developments. T20 cricket, also known as franchise cricket, has swept the globe. Many T20 leagues have sprung up worldwide, producing high-quality cricket, passionate fan bases, and large paycheques.

One of the primary reasons franchise cricket has overtaken International cricket is the ease with which it has spread around the globe. The IPL's success has been the underlying cause of franchise cricket's success over the years. One truly hopes it will be directly proportional to the quality of International cricket by producing some hidden gems. 

With love comes loss, and with risk comes reward. For the amount of cricket being played around, the franchise T20 leagues can do more harm than good with workload management, mental fatigue and injury concerns. But is the juice worth the squeeze?

From the streets of Ahmedabad to the Indian captain's go-to man

Jasprit Bumrah has defied all expectations and misconceptions to become India's best bowler across all formats. His transition from the white-ball game to red has been smooth-sailing, and the numbers speak for themselves. He now has five-wicket hauls in three of the four SENA nations. Bumrah has been a part of Mumbai Indians for over a decade and has featured in 120 games for the five-time IPL champions. He has an unorthodox bowling action that puts a lot of stress on the body, primarily his back.

Bumrah has a slightly shortened run-up compared to other fast bowlers who can clock over 145 clicks, eventually affecting his bowling fitness. If the bowling workload isn't structured in a programmed manner, Bumrah could be prone to a lot of injuries.

IPL game time has caused a lot of concerns among fans across the country, as India's No.1 bowler has been reportedly ruled out of the T20 mega event (BCCI yet to confirm the seriousness of his injury). Bumrah has started nearly every IPL game since the 2016 season, appearing in 88 games between the 2016 and 2022 seasons. He has appeared in 59 of the 60 games played by MI over the last four years and has been a part of only five of India's 30 t20Is so far in a World Cup year, which is very concerning, to say the least. 

Bumrah's Injury timeline

  1. Thumb Injury - 2018
  2. Lower back stress fracture - 2019
  3. Back Injury - 2022

India's potential Swordsman in War?

Ravindra Jadeja was Chennai Super Kings' third retained player ahead of the 2018 IPL auction. The star all-rounder was the highest-paid retention (16 Cr) for CSK ahead of the 2022 edition of the IPL. Jadeja has also featured in almost every IPL match since the 2018 IPL season playing 72 games in the tournament. However, he got ruled out of IPL 2022 at the fag end of the season.

The other side of the coin tells a different story; Jadeja has had six injuries since December 2020 and has featured in only 42 games across all formats for India. Jadeja also missed the Gabba Test and the home series against England in the 2021 season.

Injuries galore for India's go-to Swordsman?

  1. December 2020 - Hamstring
  2. January 2021 - Broken Left Thumb
  3. November 2021 - Right Forearm
  4. May 2022 - Bruised Rib
  5. July 2022 - Right Knee
  6. September 2022 - Right Knee

IPL or International cricket? The ball is in players' court

Well, having an excellent squad depth could be a massive advantage but not being able to play a team's best XI for a World Cup isn't. It now all comes down to the never-ending IPL versus International debate. Is it high time the management sets a bar for workload management of the players?

The world's best players make the journey to India to compete in the Indian Premier League, the highest-paying cricketing league on the planet. It has completely transformed the cricketing ecosystem and business strategies by attracting astounding funds from various investors, sponsors, and advertisers. The introduction of T20 cricket, particularly the IPL, in 2008 ultimately influenced the relationship between franchises and international cricket. Before the IPL, domestic games accounted for only about 2% of the Indian board's total broadcasting rights; today, the IPL accounts for over 71% of India's broadcasting revenue.

It seems to be becoming a default option for all upcoming Indian talents and superstars to be a part of the cash-rich league, not only for the big bucks but also to stay competitive and improve their game. No franchise would want their wonder kid or stalwart to miss out after years of preparation and investment.

It all comes down to one word: Balance. It's obvious and cliche, but life is all about balance. A platform like the IPL should never be overlooked or underestimated for playing international cricket because it develops you into a better cricketer and an individual since the stakes are very high and the pressure is intense. The competition has more than 60 games, and can be a great leveller because sometimes the runs aren't coming easy and it can humble you down. It also allows you to gain valuable experiences by meeting and sharing the dressing rooms with the world's most incredible talents.

More specifically, the BCCI cannot restrict the Indian superstars from participating in the IPL to focus on international events; however, the management can work on the players' game time or workload management for each individual. Cricket boards can also assist in structuring their schedules to prevent the centrally contracted players from getting physically and mentally exhausted by the T20 league.

The BCCI can directly get in touch with franchises for certain contracted players to request day-offs rather than playing throughout, i.e., approximately 56 overs (for bowlers) in a span of around two odd months. With the amount of cricket being played, 50 plus overs can become a lot of deliveries under the belt, which directly puts a lot of stress on the body. 

T20 cricket has a different breed of passion, love, and craze, particularly in India. Fans search for their idols and superstars in hotels, by the pool, and on the streets. The honest debate will be whether a young Indian aspiring cricketer wants to be out there toiling for his state team when they are in trouble on Day 4 of a Ranji Trophy game or sitting in dugouts playing franchise cricket and earning the big bucks.

Are they willing to go through the journey of blood, sweat, and tears or skip ahead to the IPL's fairytale stories? Regardless of choice, there will be consequences.