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The Weight Training Dilemma

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The rumbling of Gayle storm at times puts the crowd under threat. His 90 metres rockets, launched at the rate of knots would allow a crowd very little time to take evasive action.

People ask, what’s the secret behind this awesome power? Is it heavy lifting? Is it supplements? Bengal first class cricketer Ashoke Dinda revealed a story to me. Kolkata Knight Riders were training under trainer Adrian La Roux in the gym. When La Roux asked a reluctant Gayle to train he nonchalantly lifted 120 Kg in bench press, much to the bemusement of others. But just after 2-3 reps he started giggling and his training for the day was over. No wonder that Gayle does little to no lifting. King’s XI Punjab team physio Brett Harrop revealed that Gayle only does yoga stretches for mobility.

The point I am trying to drive home is – regimented weight training is an integral part of fitness in modern cricket. Having said that the question that begs answering is - does it apply to all the cricketers?

During the 80’s the formidable quartet of fast bowlers from the Caribbean’s were never heard of lifting barbells. Trainers didn’t exist those days and even in the English counties they played, had no gym. Michael Holding bowled at 156.10 km/h clicks and Andy Roberts at 159 km/h. From the view point of exercise science an abundance of fast twitch muscle fibres in their body ignited this power to hurl the ball at frightening speed, albeit not lifting weight.

On the other side of the river was Dennis Kieth Lillee. In 1973 Lillee was diagnosed with lumber stress fracture in West Indies, triggering belief that his career was over. Under Exercise Scientist Dr. Frank Pyke Lillee turned it around with structured strength and conditioning programme where regimented weight lifting was a key element. In 1975 University of Western Australia timed Lillee bowling at 154.8 km/h. Lillee’s school of thought gives weight training a top priority.

India’s Captain courageous Virat Kohli has gone on record saying hard core Olympic lifting is the secret behind the punch he packs in his shots. Virat’s penchant has rightly rubbed on to his teammates like Jasprit Bumrah, K L Rahul and Md Shami. Other side of the spectrum are the fittest guy Ravinder Jadeja and ‘Mr. Sixer’ Rohit Sharma. Believe it or not, Ravinder Jadeja, the man with a rocket arm and arguably the best fielder in the world neither lift nor run much. For Rohit Sharma, with a visibly protruded belly, the essence of his record number of sixes does not lie in lifting or pumping. Rohit is not too fond of training. So, like in the 80s even now the dilemma remains – does it apply to all?

Pakistan had always been a breeding ground of cricketing talent. A country infamous for non-existence of training culture produced Wasim Akram who bowled at 155 km/h clicks. Akram publicly said that he never believed in gym work or much ground conditioning. Bowling at the nets was his training. Waqar belonged to the other side. Following his stress fracture in 1992, he extended his career till 2003 just because of disciplined fitness work, though he lost his pace.

Vivian Richards of 80s and M. S. Dhoni of 2019 has a unique similarity. Both of them could send the ball into orbit. And both of them had little love with gym. Dennis Lillee of 70s and Dayle Steyn of 2019 too have a common between them. Both were fast and furious with weight training enhancing their speed.

And comes the verdict - does it apply to all? It’s a no with a capital N.

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