Itineraries: Who's to blame?

WASIM Akram's comments about the team's itinerary in Australia and the lack of match practice before they take on Australia in the first of three Tests are interesting. The same goes for Steve Waugh's riposte: basically, all Waugh said was that people should not crib about such itineraries because every team faces it nowadays. I am not planning to take sides in this debate but rather ask: why don't these folk who blame itineraries for this, that and the other, object to them in the first place?

If one were to say that too much cricket is played nowadays, one would be probably only stating what is obvious to all but the administrators of the game. And this has happened particularly in the case of the one-day game. The two countries which play the most one-dayers each year are India and Pakistan. None of the players have been known to question the crazy itineraries which see them playing in Canada one day and in Singapore the next.

The question of itineraries was raised two years ago by two well-respected cricketers: Mark Taylor and Courtney Walsh. Both felt that the players were being hard done by and wanted some kind of sanity introduced into tour schedules. The ICC duly took up their suggestion and, at its annual meeting that year, had a meeting with the captains from the Test playing nations. Apparently, this matter of crowded schedules was discussed. But, as with many things that happen under the aegis of the ICC, we never heard a word about it again.

Cricketers have been known to threaten to take industrial action for money. The mercenaries in the West Indies team pulled one such stunt en route to South Africa and were promptly rewarded with big raises. The mercenaries in the Australian team did likewise two years ago and won their battle as well. For a while that year it looked as though South Africa and New Zealand, the two teams who had arrived for the summer programme, would end up playing just each other! But when it comes to schedules, nobody really bothers.

My question is: If schedules such as the one which Pakistan have in Australia annoys the cricketers why don't they raise it with their own board first? Why don't they refuse to tour unless they have enough matches before the Tests begin? Why do they come to the country where they are touring and then start to bitch about schedules? Is it a coincidence that Wasim started his whining after the team fared pretty badly in every match to date? Is he trying to prepare an excuse for a possible bad showing in the Tests?

There are, no doubt, many considerations involved when tour schedules are drawn up. Far too many for a simple mind like mine to even begin to think about. But I'm pretty sure that the players are aware of how many matches they are going to play and how much travel is involved. This isn't the first time that Wasim Akram is coming to Australia either. He knows how different the pitches are compared to those in subcontinent. He knows every ground well enough to realise that this many matches aren't going to be enough for new players to get a proper feel of conditions.

It might be good if Wasim buttoned up and decided to concentrate more on the game itself. Pakistan lost its last Test series against Australia in Pakistan. The perfect riposte to this is to defeat Australia on home ground. No amount of cribbing about itineraries is going to help. The Pakistan players accepted the touring conditions and now they must concentrate on playing cricket. Else, there are plenty of good flights every day from all major Australian cities to Islamabad.