We’ve written a rather hefty piece for Cricinfo about overtraining in cricket. We think it’s a big deal, but we get the distinct impression that no-one else really does.
It’s partly that people don’t really understand the concept. Understandably, they think it just means training too much, but overtraining is actually a label for a physiological condition that tends to come about as a result of a whole range of factors of which physical training stress is just one.
It hinges on whether or not an athlete is ever fully recovering and so it also involves all those little things which have an impact on that.
Most people don’t understand recovery
And this is simply because they don’t live a lifestyle where it’s any kind of an issue. Even if you play a lot of sport in your spare time, chances are you’re still in overall credit when it comes to recovery. You might struggle in one particular week, but it’s not something that persists for a month or a year.
An alternative title for the Cricinfo article could have been ‘a plea for an off season’ because it strikes us that international cricket seems to be actively courting overtraining. The way the sport is run seems specifically geared towards hampering recovery, enhancing mental stress and most importantly of all, engineering a situation where players define themselves by their performance. When you reach that point, things really get out of hand.
While speaking to Dr Richard Winsley for the article, we pointed out what happened to Jonathan Trott. Thinking about what Trott had said at the start of the summer, about how he’d basically lost the ability to switch off, it struck us that this might be an example of overtraining. Winsley agreed to the extent that he is now going to use Trott as a case study.
If the Trott example tells us anything, it is that such an implosion has no single cause. Rather, it is a perfect storm of multiple, related factors. It is also pretty clear that the environment inhabited by international cricketers is one where such an outcome is increasingly likely.
An extraordinary proportion of a modern international cricketer’s time is spent with colleagues. Have you ever been on a work night out and been struck by how much you talk about the job? Imagine that all day every day. It’s not healthy. People need balance. Now imagine that this environment is all you’ve known for your entire adult life and then suddenly, in your early thirties, it’s gone. How would you adapt to that?
Fred bowled more overs
Measuring bowlers’ workloads in terms of overs is reductive. There’s far more to overtraining than that. England are playing at least one match a month from November of this year until September 2017, so anyone playing multiple formats is rarely going to be more than a week away from another flight and another hotel.
There’s an awful lot appended to a modern international over, whereas a 1950s county over is delightfully unencumbered. They’re not equal.
They’re well paid
This is the most infuriating argument of all – that players should stop moaning because it’s their job and most people would love to be in their position.
Firstly, most people would love to be in their position simply because most people are idiots and only imagine themselves raising their bat or holding aloft a trophy. Nobody plays a game for a living, because as soon you do, it ceases to be a game.
The reality is that you spend years building towards something that might be taken away from you in an instant by a slight divot or a dodgy call. You then get to spend endless hours ruminating on it. The cricket in the middle’s the tiniest fraction of your time and the majority is spent trying to address all your myriad flaws.
Whose problem is it?
The second rebuttal to the ‘they should just bloody well get on with it’ argument is that this is precisely what they are doing. It’s not generally the players who are suffering the most – it’s us, the fans. Most people who read this website – obsessive cricket people, for the most part – would be more than happy to see far fewer games being played. They’d love to see more fast bowling and fewer meaningless fixtures.
Players and coaches are just getting on with it, but that isn’t to say that everything’s fine. Rotation’s pitched as being a cure-all, but that assumes there is someone in charge who can enforce it. Is that the head coach, who needs his best players, the player fighting for his spot, or some sort of head medical officer keen to become a lightning rod for disappointed fans’ hatred?
Fatigue accumulates over time, but as often as not a decent period of rest sees it dissipate. A defined off season would be no bad thing.