Is Akram fit enough to play T20?

Also, questions answered on training the upper body, and most anxious moments in a physio's career

Anil Kumble bowls with a broken jaw and gets Brian Lara, West Indies v India, 4th Test, St John's, 12 May, 2002
Anil Kumble bowling with a broken jaw in Antigua, 2002 © AFP
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I am 15 years old and I play club cricket. I struggle to have quick movement in my upper body while batting and usually when I try it tires me badly, although I have moderate stamina. So could you please give me tips on how I can get my upper body (back, shoulders and arms) moving quickly so I can face pace with confidence and play big shots? asked Bilal Fouzi
Unfortunately there are no shortcuts to achieving a high level of specific fitness. It takes dedication, persistence and effort.

In your situation there are a couple of exercise options you can try. The first is boxing. Many international cricket team trainers love to get their players boxing to develop not only trunk and upper body power but also endurance. Boxers are some of the fittest athletes in the world. Ideally you should work with a partner. And if you don't know the technique of how to punch, get some coaching first, to avoid injury. Efforts can range from longer, continuous sets (like one minute) of alternating jabs, to shorter sets (30 seconds) of more powerful, heavier punching. Mixing up the sessions will train both your power and endurance. Don't forget that boxing is not just upper body training - it conditions the legs and trunk as well. The power behind a punch is much like a throw, originating in the lower body.

The other thing you might like to try is medicine-ball throws and catches. Examples would be overhead forward and backward, and left and right trunk rotation throws. Working with a partner who will catch and throw the weighted ball back to you is a form of plyometric training, so start easy. Or throw against a sturdy wall, catching the ball as it bounces back to you. This is high-intensity training, so even two sets of six to eight repetitions for each exercise are sufficient initially.

Will we see you joining an international team any time soon? What are your future career plans? asked PB Murali
I'll never say never, but there are many considerations when working with an international cricket team. The media are constantly talking about rotation of players to keep them mentally and physically fresh to prevent burnout. What everyone fails to realise is that everyone on the support staff is also on the road at least as much as, and likely more than, the players. Board administrators, as our employers, prefer to have consistency in the staff travelling with international teams in order to maintain one point of accountability in each department. Although I can completely understand this viewpoint, to be away from one's family and friends for over ten months a year is a huge sacrifice for one's job, even for a job that you love.

I predict (hope) that there will be more in the way of job-sharing at the elite level in the future in order to provide more life-balance for the support staff. Australian cricket has operated like this for a number of years and seems to be working well. England and South Africa have also given their coaching staff intermittent tours off.

In terms of future plans, the Kolkata Knight Riders feels like a family to me since I have been there from the start. A lot of hard work has gone into seeing the team reaching the top position.

Who was the toughest player about whom you felt, "This guy is a harder taskmaster than I am?" Is there any player who was extremely particular about his fitness regime? Be it from India, Australia or any other country? asked Aniket Chiniwalla
This is a common question asked over the years but I still don't know the answer! It seems that every player has a pre-programmed or intrinsic work ethic based on numerous intangible factors. Family upbringing, lifestyle, education, coaching philosophies in junior cricket, junior-senior player dynamic, status, perceived ability, ego are all factors that can underpin a player's motivation to push him or herself to the intensity required to get the most optimal training adaptation.

The strength and conditioning professional must tap into what drives each player. But there also seems to be a pattern that lesser skilled players will push themselves harder in other aspects of their training in order to maximise their potential - they have to in order to survive. Highly skilled players tend to stay in their comfort zones more often, maybe because they have a better ability to know what they need to do in order to perform their skill optimally? Maybe this is part of their genius.

There are exceptions, however, that stand out from those I have worked with. Anil Kumble, for example, is one man who gave 100% in training, despite the public's perception of his athletic abilities. He was also the fiercest and bravest competitor out there, as evidenced by his coming back to bowl with a broken jaw in Antigua back in 2002.

Ryan ten Doeschate recently said that Wasim Akram hasn't lost much of his pace. Being the physio of KKR, what do you make of Wasim's fitness? Can he do his quota of four overs and not get unfit? asked Danish Tahir
At each KKR nets session there is always a comment passed that it would be great if Wasim could come out of retirement to play for us! I never worked with him as a player but I can honestly say that he has an amazing work ethic. During the IPL he was in the gym daily, working hard on his fitness, usually first thing in the morning despite the late finishes we have in the evenings. And he will bowl at every nets session to the boys at the top of the order. Wasim loves to use the net bowling as another fitness session.

But net bowling and match bowling are quite different, as any bowler will tell you. The intensity always goes up a few levels out in the middle in a competitive environment. And the physical demands of T20 cricket extend beyond just bowling four overs. The players feel that the intensity is much higher than in ODI cricket, and there is virtually nowhere on the field to hide as everyone is involved in backing up each ball. Wasim may still have his net-bowling fitness but it stops there.

During your time as a physio in international cricket, which injury or player's fitness issue made you the most anxious? And what is your proudest moment as a sports physio? asked Jay Carleton
Any injury that is potentially disabling to a player is the most distressing to deal with. The unfortunate incident recently with Mark Boucher reminds me of the time Saba Karim injured his eye in Bangladesh while playing for India. He was standing up to Anil Kumble without a helmet and one delivery clipped the batsman's pad, deviating from its predicted flight path into Saba's eye. Anil bowls quick for a legspin bowler and the ball hit Saba's eye with such force that it caused the retina to detach. Even with the best professional medical management, it forced him to retire prematurely. Bones and muscles heal quite well but the eyes are comparatively fragile.

I still cross my fingers today when I see a wicketkeeper standing up to medium-pacers without a helmet. It may slow the game slightly when calling for the helmet but prevention is always better than cure. I don't think it's a case of the player having confidence in his ability behind the stumps. It's about preventing unnecessary injury by protecting the face from those freak deliveries.

In terms of my proudest moment, I enjoyed being on board India's ride to the final at the 2003 World Cup. I have also had a pretty good year so far, getting married, having a healthy baby boy and being a part of KKR winning the IPL. Bring on the Champions League!


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Posted by sufyan on (August 6, 2012, 23:53 GMT)

Err Akram bhai!! what about winning the world cup for Pakistan?!! Is that not a bigger moment than IPL trophies? Or are you applying for an Indian passport too? :p

Posted by Dummy4 on (August 6, 2012, 20:17 GMT)

I know it's asking for far too much, but couldn't we have Waseem Akram back for one match? Just one international match. There's nothing I would love more than seeing him don the green shirt one more time. I won't ask for anything for a year.

At the end of the year, I might just repeat my request.

Posted by D on (August 6, 2012, 19:27 GMT)

How much would IPL teams bid on Viv Richards, since we are reminiscing?

Posted by Danish on (August 6, 2012, 18:14 GMT)

Akram's name is the only reason everyone came to read this thing i guess.Atleast thats the case with me.I came here because i saw Akram's name.No one cares about the fitness stuff because we all know that filtered mineral water is better than tap water and that if a muscle is pulled,the best treatment is to rest it.THIS is cricinfo,what i wanna read here is stuff about cricket,not about fitness!I'm a doctor,i know the fitness stuff already!!

Posted by Jawwad on (August 6, 2012, 5:00 GMT)

He surely can play a game or two for KKR. What's the harm in give it a go? Imagine fan following. It'll be one for the History.

Posted by Marcus on (August 6, 2012, 1:26 GMT)

@ Azweer also i can imagine that legspinners generate much more spin and also seem to have more variations than the off spinner, making it harder for the WK to predict where the ball is going next. But both injuries were pretty freaky (the ball hitting the bail hitting the face) so I don't think there is any reason why this could happen with an offie. Thanks for the great article Andrew BTW.

Posted by Jaydeep on (August 6, 2012, 0:45 GMT)

Just imagine.. Wasim Akram playing for KKR, soon followed by Allan Donald bowling for Pune (always first-change, the new white ball moving too much for his liking) and Shaun Pollock for Mumbai (knocking over the bails at the bowler's end often bowling very close to the wicket, way before Finn).. ah, if only it were the mid-90s again. Incredible memories of these heroes from those long-gone years :)

Posted by Dummy4 on (August 5, 2012, 18:24 GMT)

Just reading about Wasim Akram bowling in the nets can give you goosebumps, imagine if he were to make a comeback. But, I guess that's wishful thinking. Having said that, such was his class and quality that even a 10% fit Wasim Akram would be more than a match to 90% of the fully fit international bowlers bowling today.

Posted by Dummy4 on (August 5, 2012, 17:58 GMT)

Just imagine if Wsim Akram came out of retirement ,it will take me back those days in reality to refresh those moments while he was playing for PAK team as a young player!!incredible feelings.. my hero!!!!

Posted by Amjad on (August 5, 2012, 16:18 GMT)

Yes, boxing increases your stamina and upper body strength a great deal, speaking from personal experiences and in just thirty seconds burst takes a hell of lot energy than you can imagine watching someone throwing heavy punches, shakes up every fiber in your upper body especially and also legs to an extent

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Gillette Fitness Zone video series presented by Adrian Le Roux will explore fitness exercises to enhance the performance of the modern day cricket player. The 25-episode series will focus on the functional exercises that can be done anyplace anywhere; and then move on to functional and core stability exercises that involve lot of movement and power.

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