Fitness is the key

Published : Jul 28, 2001 00:00 IST


THERE is no doubt that the current generation of international cricketers play more cricket than their predecessors 20 to 30 years ago and as such a much higher level of fitness is demanded of them. The one-day game in particular allows no respite whatsoever and those who are not in peak fitness find themselves quickly exposed. Cricket requires a level of fitness that allows a player to perform in short explosive bursts, very often in quick succession. Whether one is bowling fast, chasing a ball around the boundary line, trying to retrieve it, rushing to effect a run out, running between wickets to steal a quick single or turning a one into a two, means performing at top speed and just average conditioning will not be sufficient to outdo the opponent who is also striving to achieve his best.

Endurance is also an important factor. Bearing this in mind it is quite understandable that trainers subject the cricketers to heavy routines so that they could achieve what is expected of them with minimum risk of injury. The danger lies when the fitness aspect is overdone and the practice of skills is minimised. A clever coach is the one who can mix these two in order to ensure that the players achieve the highest level of success in cricketing ability.

Teams like Australia and South Africa have hit upon a very happy medium, which is reflected in their results. There was a time when the Australian team laid too much emphasis on the fitness area and their cricket suffered but Bob Simpson's entry changed all that and he was able to incorporate the cricketing skills into their fitness training and the change was quickly evident.

Teams in South Asia have, in most cases, hired trainers from overseas to handle the fitness of their cricketers and at times we have seen that those employed have very little cricket playing experience and do not fully understand the importance of mixing the fitness with cricket skills. At times it is a method of trial and error.

What is important for countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is to have the best employed and then have their own men understudying those from overseas so that, as time goes on, the locals could be given an opportunity to take over. For some reason or the other this situation does not appear to be the case and the reliance on foreigners continues. This applies to the area of sports medicine too. Medical Science is at a very high level in South Asia and some of the institutions provide very high quality facilities and services, as good as the best anywhere in the world. This must be extended to the area of sports medicine too and joint cooperation on study, training and research may be the answer to ensure that our sportsmen are treated in the region without having to be sent overseas regularly, saving considerably on costs. This is an area, which the Cricket Boards in South Asia should jointly consider in association with some of the leading medical centres in the region.

It is argued that unlike the present day cricketers, those in the past, unless struck by a ball, hardly sustained any major muscular injuries and even if they did, played with them and had a higher level of tolerance. One would not agree with this because the amount of cricket played today is so high and a comparison would not be fair. The stakes today are so immense that a cricketer cannot be expected to expose himself to permanent damage by having an injury aggravated as a result of playing with it. In most cases their livelihood depends on the game and no chances can be taken.

Here again what is important is a proper balance and the habit of using any small ailment as an excuse must not be tolerated. How often do we see very valuable foreign cricketers contracting themselves to play county cricket? In majority of the cases financial gain is the key motive.

With the heavy programme of cricket they are expected to play in England, in addition to the enormous international commitments, the chances of injury and overwork are almost inevitable. This is a matter Cricket Boards have to seriously address so as to ensure that the players vital to them stay in the game as long as possible.

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