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It was slaughter Tuesday at Kingston, Jamaica. Sri Lanka, whom India had beaten eight of the last 10 times the two teams had met, piled up 348, a more or less impregnable total even under the current One Day International (ODI) rules that are remarkably biased against the fielding side. In reply, India were all out for 187, which is only 13 more than Sri Lanka’s highest scorer Uppul Tharanga had made (and Tharanga remained unbeaten at the end of the Lanka innings). Sri Lanka’s batsmen were helped along by Indian fielders, who dropped catches, missed run-out chances, and were sloppy in the outfield.

It’s exactly 10 days ago that India won the ICC Champions Trophy in England, beating (if one includes the warm-up matches) all the top cricket-playing nations in the world, other than New Zealand, which it did not get the chance to face. And it’s less than a fortnight possibly when Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had announced that India was perhaps the best fielding side in the world.

What went wrong?

Three days before, India had been beaten by the West Indies, though narrowly, but the way the Indian batsmen struggled against the West Indian bowlers was unnerving. We were told that pitch was damp and the West Indians exploited the conditions very well, but Mr Roach, Mr Best and Mr Sammy hardly make up a lethal bowling attack. And if Mr Marlon Samuels can bowl nine overs and concede only 20 runs, plus take a wicket, I would most certainly think that the Indian batsmen played much below par. In fact, India could reach a total of 229 only because Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who was not expected to do much with the bat, hit a six and a four off the last two deliveries of the innings.

To answer that question—what went wrong, or is going wrong—I tried a simple exercise. I checked how much cricket the Indians have been playing over the last eight months. The clear conclusion: way too damn much.

The Indians are plain and simple tired.

And the team’s travels are hardly over yet. Ten days after the Celkon Tri-Series ends in the West Indies, India goes to Zimbabwe. Only after that do the players get to put their feet up—two months—before Australia comes to India to play an ODI series, and right after, India travels to South Africa for what could be a very challenging tour. So, in effect, almost all of India’s top cricketers—other than Sachin Tendulkar, who has retired from ODIs—will have only about 90 days off—in instalments—in 12 months (For those like Dhoni and Virat Kohli, many of those 90 days will also be spent fulfilling their various obligations to the brands they endorse).

How long can these guys go on, before it all starts showing, in their physical fitness, in nagging injuries, in their mental toughness, in their hunger to win?

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