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World Cup 2015: Rest is best for Dhoni & Co, says Dr. Rudi Webster

Team management has taken a right decision by giving Indian players the time and space to refresh their minds, revive themselves and come together as a united, committed unit for the World Cup

Over the years, Team India's performance overseas has been disappointing. In their recent tour of Australia, the team competed well in the Tests but failed to win a match and lost the series two games to love. Surprisingly, they failed to win a single match in the tri-series ODI competition, losing easily to England and Australia.

Virat Kohli after being dismissed during the tri-series recently. The right-hand batsman, who scored 692 in four Tests vs Australia, was a big disappointment in the limited overs series with just 24 runs in 4 ODIs
Virat Kohli after being dismissed during the tri-series recently. The right-hand batsman, who scored 692 in four Tests vs Australia, was a big disappointment in the limited overs series with just 24 runs in 4 ODIs 

With the fast approaching World Cup, management mandated a period of rest and recreation before final preparations for the Cup. Many people feel that this is the wrong thing to do at this critical stage. Instead, they want to see the team engaged in a final period of intense preparation.

In 2014, Team India played in New Zealand, Bangladesh, England and Australia, and at home against the West Indies and Sri Lanka. On the domestic scene they played in the IPL and Champions League. That is a lot of cricket in a short space of time!

The series were all competitive and aggressive but in England and Australia aggression turned into bitter hostility as the games took on a war-like quality. The on-going and chronic stress on the players must have been enormous.

Chronic stress
Chronic stress can be a powerful enemy. During and after World War II a great deal of research was done on the effects of chronic stress on the health and performance of soldiers who were exposed to continuous and prolonged combat.

Researchers found that the constant and prolonged tension of battle often resulted in 'combat fatigue', negative thinking and a deterioration of performance. The soldiers became confused, lost concentration, self-confidence, self-motivation and self-discipline and suffered from poor judgment, impaired decision-making and poor execution of basic motor skills.

At first this condition was thought to be a sign of cowardice and mental weakness but it was later recognised as a normal reaction to continuous stress on the battlefield. It is a sign of mental fatigue.

Quality rest
The researchers found that the best way to prevent and treat this condition was to ensure that the soldiers got quality rest and recreation between assignments. With this regimen, soldiers suffering from 'combat fatigue' were able to clear and calm their minds, recharge their mental and physical batteries and return to the battlefield as competent and confident warriors in less than a week.

Sportsmen with tight schedules who are exposed to constant and prolonged stress sometimes suffer from this condition. Sports administrators and selectors should be aware of the dangers of work overload and the negative effects of chronic and prolonged stress. They should ensure that players stay fresh and alert by getting quality rest and recreation throughout the season.

Today's military protects its soldiers from 'combat fatigue' and the pressures of continuous battles by doing just that. Dhoni and team management have made the right decision in this instance. They are giving the players the time and space to refresh their minds and revive themselves and come together as a united and committed unit.

Dr Rudi Webster is a renowned sports psychologist

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