Do Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma put in more time on the field than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Baskar B | Updated on October 10, 2019 Published on October 10, 2019

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Photo: PTI   -  PTI

If one strictly goes by the numbers, the Indian cricketers certainly seem to be working harder than their footballing counterparts

When it comes to the amount of time spent on the field, do cricketers such as India and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) captain Virat Kohli and India T20 and Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma clock in more hours than footballers such as Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah or Barcelona/Argentina star Lionel Messi or former Real Madrid virtuoso and Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who now plays for Juventus?


Given India’s packed cricketing calendar, it would appear they do so. A back-of-the-envelope comparison of the number of days spent by Kohli and Salah on the pitch tells a fascinating tale.

Packed calendar

India has so far played four tests in 2019. The first was in January in Sydney against Australia (the last in that series of four matches). Then it played two against the West Indies in the Caribbean. The ongoing Freedom Series against South Africa features three tests — today is Day 1 of the second test. It has begun just three days after the conclusion of the first one, in Visakhapatnam. The last match will begin on October 19, just four days after the conclusion of the second test, assuming it lasts till the fifth day.

In a nutshell, the entire three-test series against South Africa will be played in just three weeks, from October 2 to October 23.

Meanwhile, India has already played 14 One Day Internationals (ODI) so far, with three more to be played in December against the visiting West Indies. If you throw in the ICC World Cup this summer in England, where India reached the semis, the total number of ODIs goes up to 24.

India will also feature in 15 international T20s in 2019.

Kohli’s workload

So, if one adds up the numbers captain ViratKohli, who plays in all three formats, would have played 79 days of cricket by December. This, of course, excludes IPL 2019. If one includes that, Kohli’s tally adds up to 93 days of cricket.

So, this means Kohli has played some form of cricket or the other every fourth day this year. However, incredible the workload seems, this has not been one of India’s busier years.

Also, this workload is by no means unusual. In 2019, England will feature in 11 test matches, 26 ODIs (including the ICC World Cup) and three international T20s, which adds up to 84 days of cricket.

Kohli vs Salah

Now, how does Kohli’s workload compare with that of athletes of other sports? In the 2019-20 English football season, Mohammed Salah of Liverpool should end up playing 38 Premier League matches, 13 Champions League matches (assuming Liverpool reaches the finals of this knockout tournament), and a dozen-odd FA Cup and League Cup matches. This adds up to around 63 matches. There is no great variance between his workload and that of Ronaldo or Messi.

Of course, if Liverpool gets knocked out of the group or the knockout stages of the Champions League, then Salah would have played fewer matches and so is the case with the FA and the League Cups.

So, how does Kohli’s 93 days of cricket compare with Salah’s 63 days of football? Are top-level cricketers more overworked than top-flight footballers? And should they therefore be paid much more?

It has to be borne in mind that 2019 was a World Cup year for cricket, which may have skewed the numbers towards Kohli. But even if one subtracts the number of World Cup matches from Kohli’s tally, he would end up playing 83 days, still higher than Salah’s best-case scenario. And as with cricket, the number of games played by footballers would also increase in a FIFA World Cup, Euro, African Nations Cup or Copa America year.

At the same time, football is is a high-intensity contact sport played for 90 minutes, sometimes 120, which can be taxing on the body. Even though test cricket stretches for five days, at any given time there are only 13 players on the field. This holds true for ODIs and T20s, too, despite their shorter duration.

No more rest days

Indeed, it is amusing to note that there once used to be a ‘rest day’ in test cricket, usually between the third and fourth day, at a time when there were far fewer cricket matches played than today. Consider this: when there were ‘rest days’ in test matches, ODIs were just beginning to get popular and T20s were still many years away. ‘Rest days’ were scrapped in all test-playing nations by the mid-1990s.

But given that international football has a fixed season, and cricket is now played around the year, one can still conclude that on the face of it, relying only on the basic numbers, top-level cricketers are more overworked than their footballing counterparts. It is only if all these players start wearing fitbits when they are on the field that we will know whose bodies are taxed more.

Published on October 10, 2019
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