Team India high on fun
- By Rahul Banerji
Faisalabad, Jan. 19: The high energy levels Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag displayed, despite the many interruptions, in spending all five days of the opening Test against Pakistan at Lahore on the field points to the fitness levels of this Indian team.
The Indian captain and his deputy fielded for most of the first two days and then put together their near-world record opening stand partnership over whatever playing time was available thanks to poor light and rain over the next three. Yet every time they walked out, there appeared to be no hint of strain on their faces. In all, the pair spent the best part of 220 overs on the field between January 13 and 17.
Compare this to the endurance levels of Indian teams of the past and a picture of a leaner and meaner team begins to emerge. Since he took over ahead of the unhappy tour of Sri Lanka in July last year, coach Greg Chappell has used every opportunity to push the Indians towards higher levels of commitment on the field and while training. Towards this, Chappell has assisting him biomechanist Ian Frazer, physio John Gloster and trainer Greg King.
And the key word, says Frazer, is "fun". He explains: "Every exercise can become self-defeating unless it is fun. The guys enjoy it and want to do more because they are now learning to challenge themselves. The idea is to work up to each new level in stages so that the players are not pushed too much too soon, and once they get there, we go for the next set."
So how have the players taken to the regimen? "Well, the results are there. They are all learning to make the best of what they have. That is what the greats all did well ó use the basic tools they had and adapt them to every new situation. That way it does not matter whether you are playing at home or elsewhere, with familiar or unfamiliar equipment. A lot of it is in the mind, and these guys are adjusting very well."
A former first class cricketer for Victoria, Frazer has been part of Chappellís India team from the very beginning. He has thus been able to oversee and monitor on an individual basis the progress each player has made, but will not go into details. On Sourav Gangulyís spectacular catch to dismiss Rana Naved at Lahore, Frazer says with a wicked grin: "He almost made a meal of getting into the right position, didnít he? But he recovered and in the end got it. Thatís what is important, thatís what we have been working on. And itís beginning to show."
Not very long ago, Chappell had made his thoughts on fitness and challenges for players very public. "During training we create some problems for them to solve, make the players think."
Adds Frazer, "A cricketer needs to make decisions, and very fast. So we have these drills that make such situations familiar, pushing them into making the right choices. Decision-making also helps in learning. During training, players are challenged to make a lot of decisions so that they would make a lot of decisions on the field."
Yuvraj Singhís amazing on-the-move run-out of Salman Butt on the first day at Lahore was illustrative of the success of this approach. Immediately after the third Test at Karachi, India and Pakistan will go into the high-voltage one-day series that will take the teams around this country. That, indeed, is where the real test of fitness ó in mind and body ó will come.