September 24, 2001

No shortcuts to stay fit

At last the squad to tour South Africa has been finalised after the usual theatrical episodes

At last the squad to tour South Africa has been finalised after the usual theatrical episodes. The only difference this time around being the fitness problems relating to some players. Over the recent six month period there has been an increase in numbers on the injury list. This is one aspect that really needs to be looked into very seriously rather than adopting an ambiguous stand. It does come as a surprise that most of the injured players are young and have hardly played more than a couple of seasons at the most.

While some of the players have succumbed to injuries on the field, there are others who have ended up with stress related problems. Nehra for one has groin injury and this can be attributed more to lack of fitness and not to non-stop indulgence on the field. Badani is out due to a back stress fracture and Zaheer Khan is rendered unfit due to a shin problem. Probably both Badani and Khan might be victims of excess workload in terms of physical training. Both of them can't seriously suggest that they have played too much of cricket. It does make people think what exactly is the reason for a spate of injuries despite the fact that a lot of science is brought to bear in the training methods. The amount of training and schedule is decided based on sound techniques and it is monitored closely by a qualified trainer in Andrew Leipus.

It was an agreed fact that the Indians were not as physically fit as their counterparts from other countries. Hence the South Africa based Leipus was engaged and he has been with the boys for a couple of seasons. There is no denying the fact that he is doing his best to improve the fitness of the boys. Nothing can be done by anyone like in the case of Sachin Tendulkar's injury. But still one wonders if the training schedule needs to be revised after taking into account factors like the itinerary for the year, the bone structure, the muscle strength along with the training history of the individual player.

The general problem is that some players tend to relax in their training once they go back to their respective destinations in between two series. Then, of course vigourous training (barring a few) was never a legacy of Indian cricket. Not many have given even a reasonable answer when asked as to what exactly is peak fitness for a cricketer. Albeit the professional guidance in training, there is no doubt that the cricketers are subjected to excess of cricket by the administrators.

More than the physical tedium, the players do feel jaded when made to play far too frequently. It does not take a genius to say that a sound mind is a key factor in enhancing or retaining the efficiency level in any walk of life. That being the case a jaded mind can cause the players to either train with a faulty technique or ignore training totally which again does not serve the purpose. The argument that a professional cricketer has to be supremely fit does not hold water since the human body can take only what it can take. The crowded itinerary does not allow a cricketer either to recover physically or work on his skills.

It may well help the current lot if they take a leaf out of Kapil Dev's book. He always reckoned that every individual should be able to know the extent of workload his body can take. Considering the fact that he hardly missed any match due to injury in his entire career, there must be something to it. It is important that the cricketers find out for themselves the exact workload that is needed to keep them going over a long span of time. This is not to suggest that Leipus is incapable or disregarded but in the end it always boils down to the individual.