How Virat Kohli and Co. unwind on off days

Ahead of the World Cup 2019 match against Afghanistan, Team India will participate in fun activities for team bonding — a regular practice on overseas tours.

India leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (left) with senior player Mahendra Singh Dhoni at a training session ahead of the World Cup opener against South Africa.   -  FILE PHOTO/ AFP

The Indian cricket team management plans various activities during long tours which has a two-fold gain — to switch off and also enjoy each other’s company off the field, which is considered important to produce on-field performances.

It could be anything from fun games to having a simple meal in a group of four.

Before the start of the World Cup, Indian team was seen playing paint ball and now that there is a break before the next game against Afghanistan on Saturday, there are bonding activities planned.

How it works

The team members are provided with a weekly activity schedule and they are instructed to do things which are more organic in nature than forced.

“In this Indian team, the bonding sessions have been a part for some years now. Right now, the players are with their families enjoying a break. Once they come back, some activities are planned,” said a senior BCCI official.

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While Virat Kohli is the captain, the team’s ‘Leadership Group’ has three members — Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

At times, in a team of 15, the 12 players are divided into groups of four and they are handled by each of the three senior members.

“It is always insisted that players from different regions hang out together and at least have a meal together. Just for example, Vijay Shankar, the newest member of the team will certainly feel more comfortable interacting with a Dinesh Karthik. Same language, food habits, that is natural.

“But there are times when Karthik will need to have a meal with another junior player. It’s not something that is forced but it should happen naturally,” the official said.

It’s not only about cricket. Seniors are encouraged to speak to the junior players about other aspects of life also where they can take a cue from them.

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“It could be anything from handling stardom to managing investments or by dividing them into groups of three for the same gym slot. Bonding during some strenuous exercises isn’t a bad idea either,” he added.

Sunday Clubs

Team bonding sessions have been in vogue in Indian cricket for long, only the terminology has changed with changing times.

In 70’s, it used to be Sunday Clubs, a concept that was borrowed from English counties where players were told to dress up in a certain way or enact certain scenes.

There used to be punishments like walking from one’s own hotel room to the team activity room in underwear with a neck tie around the waist.

Some were made to apply lipstick and then, dance. At times, it could be bordering on ragging as some of the old timers recall.

It became more of a fun activity during Gary Kirsten’s time. Paddy Upton’s much acclaimed book ‘Barefoot Coach’ has some cute pictures of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir dressed as women during a play they were part of.

From the mid 90’s till early 2000s, the team bonding activities hardly took place, especially during Mohammed Azharuddin’s when the Indian side was a disjointed unit with not much trust existing between the players.

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