"Go easy, not lazy".
These were the first words from Ricky Ponting, head coach of the Delhi Capitals, as the squad assembled for their first training session in Dubai over a week back. He instructed this over a video call, according to captain Shreyas Iyer, as he was restricted to reviewing footage of the team's training session for the first few days because of quarantine restrictions.
"When we finally got the go-ahead for our very first training session of the season, the excitement was palpable," Iyer wrote in a column for the Capitals. "Ricky was still in quarantine, which means his opening talk of the season was going to be over a Zoom call. 'Go easy, not lazy,' he told us. "'Slow and steady, short and sharp sessions to start with. And more intense as we go along.' It's amazing how much energy he manages to put into us even from across a computer screen."
Iyer felt just being out on the field made him nostalgic after he had spent a better part of the last five months indoors due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He said the seven days of quarantine and the wait to train and play had made him "absolutely restless", but once he hit the nets, the wait for his turn to bat made him an "impatient child, full of energy." With Ponting still in quarantine, the Capitals began training under supervision of assistant coaches Vijay Dahiya and Mohammad Kaif.
"I can't tell you how much I waited for the day of our first training session," he wrote. "Before that, we were locked in our rooms for a week. I kept myself occupied with room workouts, as Rajinikanth, our strength and conditioning coach monitored me over a video call. In the evenings, I turned to Netflix.
"On the first day of training, I was ready a whole hour before schedule. And once I stepped out, nostalgia hit me. The sight of the green outfield, and the white picket fence at the ICC Academy, our training venue, was a sight for sore eyes. How much we'd all missed this for the past few months.
"Kaif bhai, and Vijay bhai had reached before us. And before we knew it, it was officially season time. I am frankly finding it hard to describe the feeling when I put my pads, gloves and helmet on, and walked into the nets. As I heard the sweet, sweet sound of bat hitting ball, I waited for my turn like an impatient child, full of energy."
Iyer admitted to feeling a little uneasy to suddenly train at full intensity in the hot and humid conditions. He said it took him a while to get into the groove but wouldn't have it any other way after missing out on cricket for the majority of the year.
"It wasn't easy to get into the groove, to be honest," he wrote. "And the humidity made things worse. But I'd pick this over the hotel's air-conditioning any day. Two sessions in, I started finding my rhythm back, slowly but surely. You could see the intensity in the nets and the outfield.
"The batters tonked the ball all over the park, the fast bowlers steamed in, the spinners got their trick deliveries out. It would be safe to say it was a case of 'Absence makes the heart fonder' for all of us. All this time away from the game only made us realise just how much we love it."