COVID-19 lockdown: Testing times for fast bowlers and their fitness

For those like Ishant Sharma, whose ankle injury flared up in New Zealand, the lockdown period will offer quality time to recover and rehabilitate.

For Ishant Sharma, whose ankle injury flared up in New Zealand, the lockdown period will offer quality time to recover.   -  AP

 

These are unprecedented times for Indian cricketers. In particular, the pacemen who need to be monitored continually. There is no cricket happening, no grounds, no gyms, and even the National Cricket Academy is shut.

When the Indian team members are away from the national side, they are given a follow-up schedule — it differs from cricketer to cricketer — by the side’s strength and conditioning coach Nick Webb.

Generally the span of each workout routine is three weeks after which the concerned player has to get back to Webb on the progress made. In fact, there is constant online interaction between Webb and the team members.

But then, lockdowns can upend the best of systems. In fact when there was a lock-out in the NBA for 161 days in 2011, there was a spike in injuries when the athletes returned. Many were simply not match-fit on their return.

In the case of the Indian cricketers, in particular the pacemen, the situation is challenging. Running is crucial and while they can use a treadmill, the Ground Reaction Forces (GRF) when you run in the open spaces are absent.

And the GRF is critical to the development of strength and conditioning of a cricketer.

Aware of the stumbling blocks, these will be the times when the Indian team management and the NCA will be coordinating closely online.

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Metabolic conditioning is crucial for pacemen to maintain their fitness and take it to the next level. Here the athlete goes through a series of exercises, different in nature in quick succession.

The metabolic energy pathways are particularly helpful in assessing the strength and cardio efficiency of an athlete, a leading Indian trainer told Sportstar.

Indian bowling coach Bharat Arun has a testing job, in keeping his pacemen battle ready. He could suggest ‘shadow bowling’ — bowling with a shortened run-up if the paceman concerned has a garden in his home.

Then Arun can ask the bowlers to visualise bowling at different batsmen; this can enable the bowler to evolve mentally.

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But then, this is a period when the cricketers could be in a horizontal position at home, watching endless television and putting on a lot of weight.

Then they become out of shape, and unfit for battle. Fortunately, the present bunch of Indian pacemen are fitness conscious and, with the stakes so high, are unlikely to fall into the ‘overweight’ trap.

Not for nothing has Arun stressed depth in pace bowling and a pool of pacemen. India has quite a few pacemen waiting in the wings of international cricket but sadly, with IPL out of the picture, they too would be short of match practice.

For those like Ishant Sharma, whose ankle injury flared up in New Zealand, the lockdown period will offer quality time to recover and rehabilitate.

Keeping the Indian paceman match-fit in these times is Arun’s biggest challenge.

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