The beneficial aspects of conditioning camps

THE Indian probables are now in the conditioning camp ahead of what will surely be a demanding season. These camps are certainly useful, for apart from enabling the cricketers to get into shape, they can forge team unity and camaraderie.

K. SRIKKANTH

The Indian probables undergoing a drill in the conditioning camp in Bangalore. Such camps set the tone for the season ahead. — Pic. G. P. SAMPATH KUMAR-

THE Indian probables are now in the conditioning camp ahead of what will surely be a demanding season. These camps are certainly useful, for apart from enabling the cricketers to get into shape, they can forge team unity and camaraderie.

The gathering in Bangalore will put the cricketers in the right frame of mind for the battles ahead. It would also help them get fitter which is so vital, given the workload for the players these days.

The cricketers are now sweating it out under a new trainer in Gregory Allen King, and he will have a chance to get his methods through to the players. Adrian le Roux had a successful tenure with the Indians; though his unexpected departure to South Africa is a blow of sorts for India, one hopes King would continue the good work.

In a camp of this nature, the physiotherapist assumes importance too. There will be some niggling injuries, especially at the beginning of a season, and the players will have to be made ready. Andrew Leipus is sure to be in demand.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has done well by organising a camp at the beginning of a domestic season — this is more purposeful than having it at the start of an international series — when some of our key players could be rusty.

The season gone by was both gruelling and eventful and the cricketers did earn a well-deserved break. Now it is time for action again.

While camps, such as the one in Bangalore, are ideal for getting the mind and the body to respond, the players also have a chance to correct their technical flaws. Generally, when the season is on, with one match following the other in quick succession, it is increasingly difficult to notice the faults that have crept into your game, and then set them right. Especially, in the present day scenario when there is hardly any break between series and tournaments. The tendency is to carry on with the way you are playing; there is always the fear that the adjustments might make things worse, for there is hardly any time to try them out.

During the net sessions at the camps, especially the longer ones, the coach and the players can work together in setting right the errors, if there are any, in the approach of both the batsmen and the bowlers.

I must say that things have become a lot more professional now and the Board does deserve credit for that. In our time, there was no such specialisation.

The trainers, who used to conduct the camps, did so on a one-off basis, and were not a part of the team. The advantages of having men like Leipus and King is that they can work together with the team, travel with it, and monitor the progress made by the players. They can ascertain whether their methods are working with a particular player, or whether they need to put him through a different routine. This is extremely vital, and can be done only by those who are a part of the team.

For instance, a player could be having trouble with his speed, another could be having problems with his throwing — this could have something to do with his throwing technique, the fallout of some injury. Clearly, a case where both the trainer and the physio will be involved. Such rigorous training was absent in our times. I mean, we did quite a bit of jogging and stretching, but the emphasis was more on our net sessions.

There were some extremely fitness conscious persons in the Indian team, even then. I remember, Mohinder Amarnath, who was extremely fit, conducted our fitness drills, and Roger Binny was in charge of our fielding and catching sessions.

In camps, the first two days are always the hardest. You are just coming back from a break, and you do encounter some difficulty in returning to top condition. Running is always that much harder in these times and on occasions one is caught short of breath. Gradually, the players get into their groove.

There have been so many changes over the years. Now the cricketers are on a specified diet, and are so particular about what they consume. Though it may have differed from individual to individual, diet was never at the top of our priority list.

However, this doesn't mean that there weren't any fit cricketers in our times. Kapil Dev was one of the fittest cricketers you could come across, as was Mohinder. And Sunil Gavaskar had so much of physical and mental resilience that enabled him to concentrate hard and bat for hours. Then, there were men like Binny, Yashpal Sharma and Madan Lal, who were all good athletes.

The camps also provide an opportunity for the seniors to have a good look at the aspirants. I've heard the story of how Zaheer Khan impressed the senior Indian cricketers so much during one of the camps, that he was soon drafted into the Indian team.

I can recall an instance about how one cricketer made a huge impact during a camp and which enabled him to make an unexpected comeback. I am talking about none other than Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Sidhu first played for India in the 1983-84 home series against the West Indies and during that period, he appeared more of a gritty batsman than someone with booming strokes.

It was in the long camp ahead of the '87 World Cup that Sidhu showed us his ability to strike the ball long and hard, often out of the ground.

The Punjab cricketer made a big impression during that camp and there was reward for him in the form of a World Cup place. Actually, that was the beginning of what turned out to be quite a remarkable success story for Sidhu. And it all started with a camp!

Indeed, having a camp can have several advantages. Players can be made more fit, they can be spotted too. Or a new aspect of their cricket could come to light.