Before embarking on the Indian sojourn in 2017 Steve Smith led Aussies trained in Dubai. Adaptation was the name of the game. Let the physiological system settle into hostile demands of heat and humidity. Have a feel of the hardness of the soil underneath. This kind of preparation helps enormously in avoiding early tour hiccups and the touring team can sustain a level of fitness throughout.
The long IPL drained the cricketers. So a Dharmasala based pre tour camp amid mountains, which could have been ideal was ruled out. A short fitness test at the National Cricket Academy, Bangalore and off the team flew.
The current Indian team under Indian fitness Coach Sanker Basu in tandem with physio Patrick Furhert moves like a well oiled machine. The support staff must have had their master plan in place to catapult the cricketers into peak performance and ensure that they survive the whole length with the same intensity.
When Kieth Fletcher’s side came to India in 80’s, Geoffrey Boycott fretted about food, hotel and players grumbled about dust and heat. They were taking too many water breaks. There were suggestions of keeping cooling stuff in the ground. Sunil Gavaskar rightly mentioned that they too played in England in May under biting cold where keeping hands outside the pocket was tough. He quipped, “Would the Englishmen allow a heater behind the slip to warm our hands?”
One has to take essence from Gavaskar’s comment. Different countries throw different climatic and geographical challenge. Conquering them is the challenge. It’s like Federar winning in all four surfaces. Fatigue and exhaustion due to sweltering heat never happens in England. Rather gloomy cold phases will challenge the fitness staff to keep the muscles of the cricketers warm. Making the players well aware of Mobility exercises will be of paramount importance. Suddenly taking a plunge into Ben Stokes after a weather break may cause physical issues for Bhubaneswar Kumar.
Sub-continental weather demands that muscle can sustain doing a work for long time without breaking down. So cricketers need to have great muscular endurance. In England muscles don’t fatigue early. So more focus can be on maximum strength and power.
I saw how hungry Virat Kohli is for his clean and jerk which is known as Olympic lift to enhance power. He loves to hit the gym. Fitness coach Sanker Basu has to literally curb Virat’s excitement in India urging him to take rest. In England Virat can really give a jerk to his fitness coach with extra sessions. Body recovers early in England.
There is a virtual upheaval in the Indian attitude to strength training. The sustained speed of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and power hitting of the likes of Lokesh Rahul, Hardik Pandya is because of the power lifting they do religiously. They all have understood that the 90’s concept of doing strength work only in pre-season is as obsolete as using a type writer in an era of I-pad. They do it round the year in a programmed way.
In South Africa the Virat & co have proved that the Indians are nowadays mentally unflappable when under the hammer. Long back there was an Aussie psychologist called Sandy Gordon who spent time with the Indian team. He said if you are physically fit you get mentally tougher. This Indian team is exactly what Gordon says. They will not crack under the spells of depressing English weather.