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With one eye on World Cups, Indian players begin work on enhancing fitness levels at the NCA

Atleast 25 players are in Bengaluru to establish their baseline fitness levels before the IPL gets underway

Nagraj Gollapudi
Indian players warm up during their practice session  •  AFP

Indian players warm up during their practice session  •  AFP

In a move to enhance and maintain peak fitness levels for the two World Cups in the next 20 months, the Indian team management - in coordination with the selectors and the National Cricket Academy - has asked a batch of shortlisted players to undergo a fitness camp in Bengaluru.
ESPNcricinfo has learned that at least 25 players are right now at the NCA, currently midway through the camp which started on March 5 and will end on March 14 after which they will head to join their respective IPL teams. All the players will undergo a fitness test before they break out of the camp, but unlike last year when it was mandatory to clear the benchmarks, this time it is to record a baseline mark for every player.
Among those who have already started with the camp include Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shardul Thakur, Harshal Patel, Venkatesh Iyer, Sanju Samson, Deepak Hooda, Varun Chakravarthy, Washington Sundar, Prithvi Shaw and Umran Malik. Also joining the camp are a set of players who are doing rehabilitation for separate injuries: KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ishan Kishan. Several players, who featured in the league phase of the Ranji Trophy, which got over recently, also joined the camp this week.
It is learned the camp was finalised recently by both the Indian team management led by head coach Rahul Dravid and had the backing of both the selection panel as well as NCA, which is headed by former India batter VVS Laxman. Both Dravid and Laxman want the NCA to function more as a high-performance centre and this camp was taking forward the initiative launched last year when a batch of white-ball only players - both contracted and otherwise - underwent fitness tests which were mandatory to be cleared. Players last year had to clear either the yo-yo test or run a 2-kilometre time trial.
This year, though, the basis for the camp is to log in the fitness parameters for each player which then can be stored in a central database and can be accessed anytime by the Indian coaching staff including the physio, trainers and strength and conditioning coaches. Creating such a standardised structure, the BCCI believes, will prove vital as India prepare for the T20 World Cup (scheduled in Australia in October-November this year) as well as the ODI World Cup, which will be hosted in India in late 2023.
Part of that process would be to establish a baseline fitness level for each individual which will then be monitored and updated frequently. The baseline is established by making a player undergo various fitness drills including performing standing long jump, 2 kilometre time trial, yo-yo test, Dexa body scan (to measure fat percentage and lean muscle mass) as well various other tests.
While there are some markers put in place - like the 17:1 level for yo-yo tests and running the 2 kilometre time trial inside 8 minutes 30 seconds - players this time have been encouraged to push themselves if they want to without any pressure. The baseline figure will be recorded once the player takes the test before the leaves the camp. Thereafter the player's fitness parameters would be measured against this baseline figure and how he is able to maintain under the workload.
For example, someone playing in the forthcoming IPL, which will be played between March 26 and May 29, can compare his baseline figure before the tournament and at the end. That will allow the player to understand not just where he is good at in terms of fitness, but also vulnerable areas. It also helps trainers understand where the player is peaking and spot areas of improvement.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo