'We need athletes who can play cricket' - Chappell
If you were walking across a Burma bridge, clambering up monkey ropes, swinging on a Damdama jhula and jumping over a khadda; you could either be a cadet going through an obstacle course at an army camp ... or a student at the Rajasthan Cricket Academy under the observation of former India coach Greg Chappell and biomechanist Ian Frazer.
It's been a month and a half since Chappell was appointed director of the Rajasthan Cricket Academy and the emphasis has been on training young cricketers to be athletes.
"The cricketer of the future is going to look very different from the cricketer of the past. We are looking for athletes who can play cricket," Chappell told reporters in Jaipur. "We have seen the short version, Twenty20, really taking off and playing a bigger part in the international scene. The cricketer of the future is going to have more demands placed on him than ever before. It is being able to find that athletic talent and training that to the needs of the future."
What attributes should a future cricketer have? "Firstly they have to go beyond fear," Chappell said. "They have to be accountable and they have to take responsibility to what happens to them and the team."
When pressed for an example of a future cricketer from the current Indian squad, Chappell said that he would rather not name anybody in case it was taken out of context but said players such as Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Andrew Flintoff fitted the bill.
Chappell believed that cricket was going through an exciting phase with the growing influence of Twenty20 cricket and the advent of the IPL in 2008. He said that the format could change the face of cricket.
"The basic talent demands of the game won't change, the physical and mental demands will. The identification and training process are going to have to change. The demands will be greater because of the distinct formats at the international level. Players will have to be flexible more mentally and physically then ever before. The best players have always been mentally strong and will have to be in the future as well."
The obstacle course at the academy is an attempt to provide a simple, low-cost and easily reproducible means of training strong and flexible cricketers. Chappell stressed the importance of such a system to develop fitness for it is easy to implement even in the districts where facilities and finances weren't as easily available as in the larger centres.
Chappell said he did not believe that there was a scarcity of athletes in India and didn't think the training process would take much time once the students were identified.
"It is important to start with the vision of what we are looking for. Once you establish that then you can save a lot of time looking for that type of player. If I have to give you a good guesstimate [I would say] between 18 months and two years before we start players coming through to the first-class level from a programme like this."
George Binoy is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo