Virat Kohli didn’t mince any words when he said, “Cricketers should be consulted before agreeing on the future tours programme.” It was in the context of playing too many matches with little or no rest in between. Virat is spot on. International cricketers are pulverised by back to back series.
In fitness we follow a sequence – training, match play and recovery. This is what we do in an ideal scenario for peak performance. Just take a look at the Future Tours Programme. It is nowhere near ideal. The space for training hardly exists. Matches of course are many. And unfortunately, there is very little time for recovery. It is obvious that moolah far overweighs scientific approach.
I remember attending the senior Indian cricket camp in 2005 and 2008. The calendar was made in a manner that a window in June-July would be left for a conditioning camp. It was precisely a pre-season preparation looking at the season ahead. The camp got extinct since the IPL came into play.
Let’s see how training benefits cricketers in their performance. The fitness tests done during the camp and the musculoskeletal assessment both takes quite a bit of time. It is only possible once you have a proper conditioning camp. The weaknesses can be pin pointed and fixed accordingly. In the 2008 camp, I watched how Zaheer Khan was working on his injured ankle with the help of the then NCA physio Paul Close. Zak was fit and raring to go after the camp. Ajinke Rahane was just getting in the Indian A team. The skinny boy was given a weight training programme to iron out his lack of strength. Ajinkya looked stronger after the camp, his strokes said so. For a fortnight, cricketers would only focus on their fitness and it stood in great stead during the season.
Once this preparatory phase became history after the grind of IPL in April-May, cricketers are deprived of preparing their body for the season ahead. It’s like you have not serviced your car for a year and you want it to win a race. Playing too many matches without a conditioned body is inviting trouble. Trouble in the form of injury and losing form. I have seen how Md. Shami breaking down with a side strain as he went on to play for KKR just after playing back to back Ranji matches in 2011. Most fast bowlers do not bowl at 150 clicks although they can do it easily. They conserve their energy.
Now comes the third part – recovery. For any sport a human body needs adequate time to recover from the bout of stress it gets during the match. It is seen the difference of load in practice against a match situation is many fold. The muscle and the joint are stressed by the tension and anxiety of performing. These days we have a superb back up team with a physio, trainer and masseur. Recovery means consist of pool stretching, ice bath and many manipulation techniques by the physios.
In fact, the physios are under a lot of pressure with so many cricketers carrying niggles because of very little recovery time. Kolkata Knight Riders has two physios during IPL. The management knows there will be many niggles because of back to back matches.
No matter how much back up you give by way of recovery means, time they say is the best healer. You got to give your body the adequate rest. In strength training the rule of thumb, going by the book is giving one muscle group 48 hours rest before working on it again. The reason is – muscle grows during rest period. Unless there is adequate rest cricketers will also have sleep deficiency which will lead to mental jadedness. And the game after all is highly mental. But are those in power at all agree?
(Chinmoy Roy is a veteran fitness expert & trainer and has been associated in different capacities with Indian and Bengal cricket for decades.)