Shanker Basu’s rise from a humble background to becoming a fitness guru who has transformed the Indian cricket team has the ingredients of a movie script.
The son-in-law of renowned director, the late J. Mahendran, Basu, in an exclusive chat with Sportstar , spoke about the support he received along his journey from wife Anurita, son Arjun, who has just completed his masters in Strength and Conditioning from the Leeds Beckett University, and daughter Shruthi.
And as he grew up, Basu’s mother Shantha Shanker was his driving force.
Q: How does it feel leaving after a four-year tenure when the nucleus of the team still wants you?
A: It is immensely satisfying. I’ve been a leader of sorts with a vision. I wanted to make changes. And Virat Kohli was for fitness. Everyone embraced the changes. Bringing in technology, assessment, load monitoring, accountability, and translating all that into performance with support from the entire support staff including coach Ravi Shastri and before him Anil Kumble. It was a team effort.
Would you be available during times the Indian team really needs you?
I’ve given it my all. But I will be available for the Indian team whenever it needs me without seeking any monetary benefits.
Were you satisfied with the Indian team during the World Cup?
Everyone was talking about the Indian team’s fitness, not Australia’s or that of South Africa. We were the best. Our bowlers go on and on. If you look at last year, our total turnaround time was only 17 days. Our recovery was fantastic but for the odd niggles.
India now has a fitness culture. Your thoughts on it?
The fitness culture we have developed is mind boggling. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, both bowled with great pace throughout. Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar have been remarkable. We have got a method now. We now understand load monitoring and its dynamics.
Apart from international cricket, we have the IPL too. How do players manage?
The other countries pulled a lot of cricketers out of IPL. We have been playing a double dose of cricket. The Indian cricketers played around 200 days last year, And there is a minimum of a day’s travelling after every match. But our players did not get injured.
The Yo-Yo Tests created quite a bit of controversy?
After Yo-Yo was introduced, the whole country is driven by fitness. It was not something I brought in. Everyone was on board. I suggested system changes. Not just Yo-Yo, we did 20 more tests that many did not hear about.
In India everything will be questioned. We have to make a start somewhere. Yo-Yo is not the be all and end all, but we needed to make a beginning. You had to clear Yo-Yo to make the Indian side, only then the players would get serious. If I tell someone, “You can fail in all the subjects, still you will be passed,” why would he study? The idea was to bring in some seriousness into fitness and training.
Can you tell us your observations about some of the Indians cricketers?
Among the Indian cricketers, lifting weights in a scientific manner really worked well with Virat. Made him stronger. There are different routines for different cricketers and K.L. Rahul does a lot of jumping. Shami does sprints.
Increasing Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s speed was a challenge. He did weight training and 20m sprints to get that explosive energy, strength and speed. He was extremely dedicated. M.S. Dhoni is man from the mountains, he is flexible, fast and explosive. Ravindra Jadeja is an astonishing natural road-runner.
Your future plans?
A: I am now 50 and have been coaching for 25 years. Fitness always evolves and there are several more peaks to conquer.
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