The India ODI team is not a young man's place it seems. With six players over 30, the current side at the Asia Cup is the oldest among the six competing teams. The Rohit Sharma-led side has an average age of 28.68 as compared to Hong Kong which has the lowest average age of 23.18. India, in fact, has the highest average age in the world, followed by New Zealand (28.30) and England (28.28).
Assuming at least 70% of this squad is retained for the 2019 World Cup, then the average age will only rise by the time India land in England. It will be considerably more than the team's average age of 27.41 in the 2015 World Cup, where India had only two players over 30 - MS Dhoni and Stuart Binny. Overage does not necessarily mean lower fitness levels while on the flipside, more experienced players should give this team a distinct edge.
Going by their performance in the Asia Cup, it seems to be working out well so far. In fact, age doesn't seem to be a deterrent for England and New Zealand, who are ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the latest ICC ODI rankings. Young blood It, however, also points out to the fact that fewer young players are getting to play. In this Asia Cup, 20-year-old left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed has been the only player to make his India debut. He is also the youngest in the team.
Compare this with Pakistan, who inducted 18-year-old fast bowler Shaheen Afridi, their highest wicket-taker at the 2018 U-19 World Cup, in the squad. Opening acts, spinners can't hide India's chinks Pakistan also have another teenager Shadab Khan, 19, in the squad.
Afghanistan spin duo Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, too are teenagers. Both have, however, played 50 and 20 ODIs respectively. Though the current India ODI setup has given preference to experience, it has been quite different in Tests where selectors had selected 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant, 20. The latter even scored a century in the fifth Test at the Oval. Injury chances The biggest downside of ageing is the increasing risk of injury.
Former India physio John Gloster feels players over 30 become more prone to injury. In cricket, because there is an element of explosive power, acceleration and deceleration, risk of injury in players over 30 is higher. They are more prone to muscle injury in the quadriceps, hamstring. Tendon injury is also a high possibility. In short, tissue adaptability is greater in younger athletes than the older ones. "Age is a criterion which we keep in mind when we determine the injury risk of a player," Gloster said over phone from Dubai.
"I am ready", says Rohit Sharma with a smile when asked about long-term captaincy. Generally, 30 is the age when we start looking at players a little differently in terms of tissue adaptability and their ability to recover quickly. Gloster added specialised training methods may decrease the chances of injury in athletes who are over 30. Dhoni is prime example as he is known to have one of the best Yo-Yo test scores.
"It's important to modify the way you train. There cannot be a blanket exercise regime for players of all ages. Especially when playing in shorter formats like T20 the chances of injury is more due to its higher speed running intensity, to the range 25 to 30 per cent as compared to Tests and ODIs. It means the above 30 players need to be far better trained and conditioned. Also, a special focus need to be put on their traveling schedule," he said.