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The Ranji Trophy starts a week from now and all the teams would be preparing in full swing. Most teams have been training for the last three-four weeks hoping to peak at the right time. The initial phase of training camps focus mainly on the physical aspect of the sport, which involves a lot of running and strength training. Even though the skill aspect gets introduced fairly early, the focus shifts to the skills only a couple of weeks before the event.
Our preparation was similar, with the only difference being that we have one relatively lengthy session (from 8am to 12.30pm) as compared to a lot of other teams who divide their daily training into two sessions. They would do the physical conditioning and fielding drills in the two to three hours' morning session and the net session in the afternoon, with a decent break in the middle to allow the players to recover and come back afresh. Ideally, the latter is the best way of training because doing everything in one session means one of the two [physical or skills aspect] is often neglected. If you push yourself in training, you rarely have the strength to go full throttle in the nets and if you intend to bowl at full steam, you end up trying to save a bit [of energy] in the physical training session. Batsmen still get through it well enough but the bowlers, especially the fast men, face the brunt of the gruelling session.
The reason we at Delhi could never opt for two separate sessions is that we don't have residential rooms at the Feroz Shah Kotla. That will definitely happen in the years to come but as of now there's no place to rest in between practice sessions. If one plans to go home and come back for the afternoon session, one would spend all the time on the roads thanks to the distances and traffic in the capital.
Since we're the defending champions our association has taken a few steps to ensure a repeat of last year's success. There was very little possibility to add anything new to our playing squad so the association decided to strengthen our support staff. I'll just provide you with the list of the men involved with our team … at the risk of boring or confusing you guys.
We have a coach, an assistant coach, a manager, a logistics manager, a physiotherapist, a trainer, a video analyst, a yoga teacher, a homeopathic doctor and a net coordinator. I might have missed a name or two. We have a whole entourage to look after our team. How much of it helps? I'll keep my judgment reserved for obvious reasons. But one thing that has proved useful is the bowling machine. It has taken some workload away from the fast bowlers and helped in satisfying, only somewhat, the insatiable hunger of the batsmen in the nets.
We, at Delhi, have been watching our Delhi players' performances in the Challenger trophy with keen interest. A few shone and the rest at least got the feel of playing in a match. Now, we're looking forward to having them back and finish the last leg of preparation with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.