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Fitness as a Wicket-keeper

Fitness as a Wicket-keeper
Fitness as a Wicket-keeper

Wicket keeping in cricket, they say is a thankless job. More than your excellent glove work, you commit one error and the critics go hammer and tong against you.

Having said that, the world has seen the likes of Allan Knot, Rod Marsh and Adam Gilchrist who left the game leaving indelible imprint with their glove work. Remember the demands are supremely high on fitness. Their job therefore, is that much laudable.

Allan Knotty even in the 70’s was an epitome of fitness ethics. He would train hard and keep a disciplined diet plan that caught the eye of Indian maestro Sunil Gavaskar. In the early 2000 Adam Gilchrist turned keeping into a spectacle with his acrobatics. Gilly was supremely fit and apart from his stunning catches his energy rubbed on to the Aussies in the field.

In contemporary cricket Wriddhiman Saha of India is one guy who, despite his not so enviable batting ability has made headlines with some breathtaking glove work. The catch he took of Steve O’kieff of Australia at Pune in early 2017 earned him the nickname superman. It was not a freakish catch. Saha kept pulling off one after another superman like catches to show that like a bowler or batsman a wicket keeper can hog the limelight with his exceptional skills.

Having worked with Saha since his U-19 days till his debut test, this columnist knows a thing or two on his fitness. And the fitness regimen I devised for him could be a good template to follow. With my experience I wrote a programme with 60% emphasis on strength, 30% on conditioning inclusive of cardio interval and speed, and 10% mobility and prehab.

Since a keeper have to squat and get up 540 times during a day (90 overs), he needs solid muscular endurance. A keeper possessing a strong lower extremity can sustain same intensity through the day. Therefore, moderate load and higher repetitions twice a week was what we worked on with one heavy lifting day during his early days. Right from his formative years, Saha was a natural with weight training. So he quickly graduated to Olympic lifts. Olympic lifts bring power to one’s body and power is the essence of modern day cricket.

Whether it’s Wriddhiman or Mark Boucher, the great leaps off the ground – left right or centre is triggered by power of the legs. Box jumps along with Olympic lifts made Saha’s legs extremely powerful. Besides that he inherited a gifted muscle group. With so much explosive stored in the legs, flying like a superman is just waiting for the prey to arrive.

The second most important thing from the coach’s perspective is agility. My Bengal coach Bharat Arun and afterwards W.V. Raman gave me free hand to work on agility, especially the lateral movement which forms the chunk of a keeper’s movement. Saha really enjoyed the lateral shuffle drill on the ladder or 6” speed hurdle.

Here sideways moves apart, the focus was on keeping the weight on the balls of the feet and a nice centre of gravity. Hip mobility contributes in smooth lateral movements. Saha spent a lot of time in mobilizing his hips with Lunge hip flexor stretch and 90-90 stretch. So it was not just the drill but the technical nitty-gritty’s we worked on meticulously that delivered quality. To make things more challenging and specific I would incorporate cricket balls during the drills. Like, as he reached the end of the ladder doing lateral shuffle, I would lob a catch. He would catch and immediately go to the other end to take another catch. Then I would stand about 5 metres from him with 6 balls. I kept giving him six back to back catches left-right and centre as he would move within 5 metres sideways. Some of the drills I copied watching Adam Gilchrist train.

Speed of movement is another aspect. It is while reaching the stump to collect a throw, or backing up. I would make Saha do short burst within 10-20 metres using signals to react. Saha’s favourite sport is Formula one motor racing. No wonder he is lightening quick in sprints. And I would throw a ball from different part as he sprinted to collect it in behind the stump. Here too the right balance and tremendous power of his legs could ignite sharp movement speed.

Sachin Tendulakar, the god of cricket says hard work minimizes chances of failure. A firm believer of that Wriddhiman Saha keeps working hard. This makes the man make frequent comebacks from injuries and keep repeating the superman acts.

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