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A Spectacle Called Running Between the Wickets

This world cup Jonny Bairstow and Rohit Sharma went berserk with some breathtaking stroke play.

At times it seemed we were watching highlights of their batting. While their swashbuckling style left an indelible imprint in the mind of the spectators what eluded most eyes had seen some amazing running between the wickets. How can running between the wickets be amazing? Yes, of course.

As the cup progressed and the weather and pitch started playing tricks the dice shifted from slam bang style to stealing singles and doubles. Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, David Warner and Shakib-ul Hassan gave a great exhibition of running between the wickets. They sprinted like hare. And this sprinting was sustained even at the deep end of their innings. A Virat Kohli confessed that about 70% of his runs in ODI is in singles and doubles. The obvious question that begs answering is how could they run so fast and convert ones into two so consistently for an extended period of time. Here is the answer:

The first and foremost dominant factor is strength and power of the leg. We have seen how Usain Bolt sprinted like lightening as he clocked the world record at 9.58 in the 100 metres. Starting from athletetics to football or cricket the science remains the same.

For the fast twitch fibres to fire, the one that generates speed and power, every sportsperson needs to train for muscular strength and power, especially for the legs. They must go through a cycle called periodisation. It starts with stability work and proceeds to muscular endurance and maximum strength. In simple words stability phase works on balance. Muscular endurance is lifting lighter load and doing more repetitions, say 12. Maximum strength is lifting heavy weight, with fewer repetitions, say 8.

Once those phases get over  one embarks on the power phase. Now the load is extremely heavy with say, 3-6 repetitions. Exercises such as Dead lift, Romanian Dead lift and Power clean are great in producing lower extremity power. A Virat Kohli, I have seen does dead lift with 80-90 kgs., so does Bumrah. This apart plyometrics, in simple words jump is another superb exercise to work on power of the legs. Players use step boxes around 2-3 feet in height and jumps on and off from them.

One must keep in mind the fact that if strength and power training switches on the fast twitch muscle fibres then practicing sprints within a distance of 30-50 metres ensures that the power is translated into speed. In other words both strength and speed training should go on simultaneously in a properly programmed way for the hare like running between the wickets.

Another significant factor for converting ones into two is the turning speed at the other end. Cricketers like David Warner or Ravinder Jadeja, as they approach the crease decelerate and keep a nice centre of gravity with a widely split legs. This ensures they don’t fall over. Rather they save that extra fraction of a second during the turn and complete the second run with ease. For most they sprint to the other end without using the brake at the right moment since they can not decelerate in time and overrun the crease.

Therefore, practicing some agility work which educates quick turning with right balance will help cricketers to learn the same art as does Virat or Warner. Remember, when these batsmen struggle at the start of their innings they somehow take a sharp single to watch things from the non striker’s end. Since they have this gift of fitness they make their running as spectacular as their stroke play.  

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