The suggestion came amid a debate around the workload management of players, now gearing up for a gruelling Indian Premier League, which will end barely days before the ICC showpiece begins in the United Kingdom on May 30.
“It’s going to be challenging as always. We have been on the road for last three or four years. We have played a lot of back to back cricket. It depends on individuals. You should always listen to your body,” Rohit said.
Rohit is leading the Mumbai Indians in the IPL with Zaheer being the team’s Director of cricket operations. “Yes, the World Cup is our priority. The IPL is also one of the biggest tournaments in the world. That is our priority as well. Keeping everything in mind we would take a decision collectively (on workload factor) on each individual,” the swashbuckling batsman said.
Zaheer felt that it was up to the individuals to listen to their bodies as far as workload was concerned. “I have always felt it’s an individual call. You have to listen to body and respond. I think we all recognise how important the World Cup is as a tournament and we also understand what the IPL brings to the table – match practice and intensity.”
“You don’t want a lay-off for a long time for any cricketer. He needs to be in touch and dealing with pressure. That is also going to be a huge factor in the World Cup. We understand all that and steps will be taken,” the former India pacer said.
Zaheer said no player should play in the IPL thinking what could happen if he gets injured ahead of the World Cup. “There has been a lot of talk about workload. You have to trust each and every member of the World Cup squad. We don’t want them to play in the tournament thinking ‘if I give 100 per cent I may get injured and be blamed for it’. We need to take that pressure away from them.”
“Playing more and more matches has always worked for me. We all need to make peace with the workload talk and the World Cup talk. We understand how important it is and, at the same, time need to create a scenario where everyone is trusting them,” Zaheer said.
Rohit added, “Some of the players that I have spoken to in the Indian team and here, like to keep in touch, they like to keep playing. They are smart, they know when they need to take a back seat and rest.
Rohit said he will open in all the games of Mumbai Indians this season, having batted at number four in a lot of games last season. “In the past, I have batted in the middle order and opened also in a few games. This year I will open the batting in all the games, that’s for sure,” said Rohit ahead of MI’s season opener here on March 24.
“Yes, the World Cup is one of the factors, but also while keeping in mind that this is where I bat for india and that’s where I have got a lot of my success of late,” he said.
Rohit said he has the freedom to take the decision to bat at the top as he has an experienced match-winner like Yuvraj Singh to play the role he had played in the previous seasons.
According to the MI skipper, there is also Siddesh Lad, a consistent scorer for Mumbai in domestic cricket, to fill in the number four slot.
Zaheer felt that IPL form would count towards selection for a few slots in India’s World Cup squad. “Look at the past. Has IPL helped Indian selectors in identifying players. The answer is – yes. Has someone been picked on IPL performance – the answer is again yes. I am sure the form in IPL will matter for grabbing those available spots,” he said.
Hardik’s workload needs to be monitored: Zaheer Khan
Former India pacer Zaheer Khan, a master in injury management during the later part of his playing career, feels that Hardik Pandya’s workload should be monitored since he has had recurring lower back injuries.
In the last six months, Pandya has had two breakdowns with recurring back-injury which ruled him out of the Asia Cup last September and out of the home series against Australia earlier this month.
“When I saw him during Asia Cup, I was very concerned with kind of signs I saw on the field. But when I spoke to him (Hardik), I found out it’s not a problem which he has faced for the first time. That’s something which should be worked on because three or four years ago he had a similar kind of issue with the back,” Zaheer, who is MUmbai Indians’ Director of Cricket, said during a media conference.
Zaheer has observed that Hardik’s injury is about the impact on the follow-through which has caused him problems. “It is related to what he feels when he is getting off through the crease (on follow through). It has a certain kind of impact which he’s been working on. For a fast bowler, the kind of injury he had in Asia Cup is not easy.”
Zaheer made it clear that Pandya is one plater whose workload needs to be monitored carefully and MI support staff is keeping a close watch on his fitness.
“He has to be monitored. He’s in consultation with the team of support staff. Everything is under control. So far he has done couple of bowling sessions. He’s going to progress in that fashion.”
Zaheer, who is now the director of cricket operations of three-time IPL title winners Mumbai Indians, was also candid in saying that the pace bowling all rounder’s work load needs to be monitored closely by the IPL franchise.
“He is on track. Sometimes distraction will help to get back on track. He wants to go out and make the numbers talk and let everyone know his priority is cricket. He has always been serious and passionate about cricket,” said Zaheer
Pandya got embroiled in a controversy by taking part in a TV talk show where his remarks were considered sexist and was sent back to India from Australia. He thus missed the ODI series after missing the preceding Test and T20 series due to a lower back injury.
Zaheer has advised Pandya to pick MI’s bowling coach and former New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond’s brains as the latter had gone through a similar experience that cut short his career in full bloom. “We have the great Shane Bond with us. You know the history of what he had gone through in his playing days. He’s the right guy he (Pandya) should be talking to. He is someone who had that issue with his back which eventually had an effect on his career,” said Zaheer.
“I have been having chats with Hardik around that, in terms of the general approach, what kind of feedback I am getting from him. I don’t want to share all those feedbacks in this platform. But rest assured he is finding ways around that.”
“In the shorter term it is not going to have any consequences as he is very much aware of where things stand. In the longer term he knows what are the things that are needed to get rid of those issues permanently,” he explained.
Zaheer was also upbeat about the impact that two swashbucking players will make – the left-handed Yuvraj Singh who is set to make his debut for MI after being ignored by all franchise in first round of the players’ auction and West Indies all rounder Kieron Pollard.
“Talking about Yuvraj, the auction dynamics are different. I myself have gone unsold in first round. Bringing Yuvraj in has been a boost because of the match winning abilities he has.”
“We have identified that we need experienced batsmen to control the middle with Rohit deciding to open and we all backing him. Who is better than Yuvraj Singh? That’s been the thought process. He’s looking good and is looking forward to make an impact in this IPL season.”