Fitness Enhances Skill
Harsha Bhogle was moderating a debate in TV. He asked Adrian La Roux, the then Indian team fitness coach, “ How much difference modern fitness training would have made had Garry Sobers, Ian Botham and Sunil Gavaskar were exposed to it?
Would that have enhanced their skill?” Adrian replied “ Fitness could have extended their career, reduced number of injuries and to an extent enhanced their skill” Bang on Adrian. Enhanced skill in which way? Ian Botham a few times threw his wicket away out of tiredness. That could have been avoided or he could have added an extra yard of pace with strength training.
While most experts have embraced the modern gruelling fitness sessions some old school of thought still have their disagreement. They say, cricket is mostly a game of skill. There is too much emphasis on fitness. Weight training is robbing the touch play. Cricketers are turning into athletes and so.
Just compare a footage of 1980’s with that of modern times. The visual of an ambling Bishen Singh Bedi against on the rope airborne Andre Russell. A fumble from Mike Brearley against flying Jonty Rhodes. Without fitness you can not accomplish these moments. Fielding is part of cricket so with fitness fielding skill is enhanced.
The gruelling YO YO intermittent recovery test for endurance helps one convert ones into twos at regular intervals. The box jumps known as plyometric help develop tremendous explosive power in the lower extremity which propels the body in taking a giant leap to pluck the ball out of thin air. One can see how the fielding coach works in tandem with the fitness coach in simulating fielding drills and running between the wickets.
Lara or Sachin was born with abundance of cricketing prowess. But Sachin did admit how the strength training helped him play a long innings. Dennis Lillee was a great case study for regimented fitness training first resurrecting and then flourishing a career. While Jeff Thomson hurled grenades without lifting anything, Lillee was a religious lifter.
A Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Chris Gayle don’t do conventional fitness work even in this era. But Virat Kohli once struggling to clear the ground on big shots till 2012 took to Olympic lifts and openly admits the transformation in his shots. A mere jab lets the ball land in the stand. Some exceptions will remain but most will be benefited by fitness.
ODI match winner Sourav Ganguly had to constantly endure criticism on his slow movements in the field. Remember even after scoring loads of ODI runs his skill could not hide his lesser fitness. Indian bowling Coach Bharathi Arun once said, “One run saved by one fielder makes it 11 runs saved in one innings. That’s the result of the match, especially in T-20. And to save that one run you need to be bloody fit. And if you are not fit you do not fit into the team’s scheme of things.”
With Arun’s word I rest my case.