W.V Raman came to coach the Bengal Ranji team in 2010 when I was on my sixth year with the state team. Going by the strength and conditioning principles I was emphasising a lot on the strength training. Cricket is a power sport. Majority of the energy comes from ATP-CP which is known as short burst fuel. Raman argued with me that strength training will make the boys stiff and restrict joint movement. According to him, long slow cardio of 40 minutes should get more priority.
Most of the former cricketers belonging to the twentieth century like Bishen Bedi, Ajit Wadekar firmly believed that to survive the rigours of five day cricket the only fitness regimen was run, run and run. I convinced Raman that strength training is a must during his second year of coaching in 2011. It’s no rocket science. Rather a simple scientific observation.
The longest cricketing action is run of three since running a four rarely happens unless you are playing at the MCG. The average time of running a three is 9.30 seconds. When Virat Kohli whacks a ball, the time taken is fraction of a second. A Mitchel Starc runs in and hurls a grenade in 3-4 seconds. And all these happen on a stop start basis – not continuously like the sport of soccer. And in all these actions the fuel required comes from ATP-CP. This short time fuel produces power.
In the principles of training, the aspect of specificity clearly states that if you are a cyclist you have to cycle. If you are a sprinter you have to sprint. In that logic if you need power you got to do power training. W. V. Raman was finally convinced. Afterwards he eulogised my skill everywhere.
Sir Garry Sobers hit Malcolm Nash for six consecutive sixes without any weight training. Likewise Kapil Dev and Gordon Greenidge used to bludgeon the likes of Eddie Hemmings on the streets. Diego Maradona never did any weight training. What muscular legs he had! You simply can not draw a conclusion referring to these exceptions that weight training does not enhance power. Exceptions are not the rule. Period.
The greatest example is flourishing with every innings he plays. Virat Kohli used to struggle in clearing the ropes around 2012. His strokes discernibly lacked the punch. Shanker Basu, the present Indian fitness coach made him master the Olympic lifts during the time of IPL as both were part of Royal Challengers Bangalore. The transformation became conspicuous as balls started landing on the stands. Virat has motivated the likes of Bhubaneshwer Kumar, Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma to do clean and jerk, snatch, high pulls – some of the Olympic lifts that enhances power.
The theory that strength training would make you stiff is as unscientific a belief as hanging on a bar will make you tall. On the contrary, exercise science clearly states that lifting will enhance range of motion of the joint and make you more mobile. Why else does Tiger Woods lift weights when golf demands the most supple of muscle tone or Maria Sharapova on the court could amazingly stretch her body for the cross court four hand?
I started the column saying old generation of coaches were not convinced of strength training. So were the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. Now you can see on YouTube that they are lifting weight. They have realised that it was a misconception of theirs in staying away from weight training.
In the same vein for the good of Indian cricket all coaches should accept the science and ensure that cricketers from the young age should lift weight with good technique and form. If it works with Virat Kohli it will work with all.
(Chinmoy Roy is a veteran fitness expert & trainer and has been associated in different capacities with Indian and Bengal cricket for decades.)