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  Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 13:46 GMT
Fighting the fatigue
By BBC cricket reporter Pat Murphy.

I would be the last person to suggest you should ever feel sorry for professional sportsmen, but spare a sympathetic thought or two for England's cricketers as they career around India.

By next Sunday they will have played six one-dayers in the space of 15 days and travelled 4,000 miles into the bargain.

That's an awful lot of baggage checks in a country that is now understandably a security nightmare after recent murders of policemen in both Delhi and Calcutta, plus the tension between India and Pakistan and the inevitable fears of terrorism after the September 11 atrocities.

Security is so tight at the various cricket grounds, on the team floor in the hotels and at the airports that it is no surprise that the constant hassles are becoming irksome.

The players wouldn't be human if they didn't wake up and think 'If this is Tuesday, it must be Madras - or is it Calcutta? Or Delhi?'

The Indian players usually stay at the same hotel as England and the rock-star treatment the locals give to cricketers of any country has to be seen to be believed.

Snape signs autographs
Jeremy Snape had two jobs at once

The autograph hunters loiter by the lifts in the hotel lobby, just waiting to ambush anyone who looks vaguely like an England cricketer, and their ability to spot one is awesome.

Even middle-aged media hangers-on like myself have been begged for autographs because we have been seen chatting to England cricketers.

Not a great deal of stardust can be sprinkled off this particular correspondent, but it seems to suffice for the average Indian cricket fan.

Now this wouldn't matter a great deal in normal circumstances, but in the last week, the situation hasn't been normal.

To put it bluntly, the tour is now just a slog.

Dalmiya's demands

It is draining, complicated and frustrating to travel the length and breadth of India every three days and then, if you are a bowler, be expected to nail Sachin Tendulkar cheaply when the world's greatest batsman is intent on smacking you around the park.

If only Jagmohan Dalmiya, the Indian Cricket Board's president had not got his way and forced England to agree to an extra one-day international, clogging up an already congested fortnight.

Soldiers watch Andrew Flintoff practice
Nothing is left to chance with security

It is annoying that Mr Dalmiya's need to schmooze with various local cricket associations around the country necessitated the whistle-stop tour, rather than following the Australian format - two games in a row at the same ground, then move on to another state and repeat the dose.

A second game in Eden Gardens, Calcutta, in front of another 100,000 crowd would have been a fantastic experience, but instead we had to stagger to Kanpur,via plane then two hours on coach,where the predictable morning dew at this stage of the year led to a shortened match.

England's tour party are not natural allies of cricket administrators, but you can bet that Mr Dalmiya is bottom of their list.

When fatigue sets in during a cricket tour, that affects concentration which in turn affects performance.

Your resistance to germs is lower and Graham Thorpe and James Foster have both had to pull out just before the start of matches on this tour.

Next stop New Zealand

The food has not been the problem, it's more a case of being unable to combat the virus. You've got more chance of doing that if you're properly rested.

It's true that the Indians and the Pakistanis also suffer from stomach upsets when they tour England, but at least travelling long distances doesn't contribute to that.

Team physio Dean Conway works on Darren Gough
Players get stiff on long journeys

In England, the touring sides usually travel by coach, letting someone else cope with the motorway hassles while they relax with their personal stereos or a good book.

That's one of the reasons why England remains one of he most favourite tours for any overseas cricketer.

In a few weeks' time such irritations will fade and the squad will be telling tall tales of the mouse on the bus as they neared the ground at Kanpur, and the loud snoring outside their doors from the designated security guards - but not until a few oysters and Sauvignon Blancs have been downed in the next port of call, New Zealand.

Then we'll all get some perspective on this hectic fortnight in India and agree that an itinerary that comprises eleven one-day internationals on two continents in just six weeks has been useful in shaping the approach and tactics for next year's World Cup.

But that won't come until memories have faded of the litany of internal flights and interminable queues to pay hotel bills in India.

No wonder visiting sides to India struggle to win both Tests and one-dayers.

It's hard, unrelenting and a searching test of a squad's character out here and by my reckoning England are still in credit.

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21 Jan 02 | England
15 Jan 02 | England
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