For many cricketers, training in different sports is vital to their all-round preparation.
The training methodology employed in cricket has — if not always ahead of the curve – for the most part been in sync with the sport’s evolution. For many cricketers, training in different sports is vital to their all-round preparation.
Recently, the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Aaron Finch and David Warner were seen engaging in boxing drills. It was something that surprised even SRH mentor K. Srikkanth. “I asked them why they were doing it. They said it helped enhance fitness-levels and improve reflexes,” Srikkanth told The Hindu.
Kepler Wessels, during his stint as CSK coach, had said a boxer’s training methods would help M.S. Dhoni’s ’keeping, and Dhoni had taken the suggestion on board.
According to Ramji Srinivasan, the former India strength-and-conditioning coach, Dhoni was “one of the strongest guys” he had come across. While noting that cross-training wasn’t a recent phenomenon, Ramji threw light on how it had acquired a context-specific character.
“With cricketers playing different formats, they train their energy-systems accordingly. T20 is about power-hitting and acrobatic fielding, and they focus more on fine-tuning these skills,” said Ramji.
The regimen, Ramji said, percolated down to three levels. “It has to be designed in accordance with the T20 format, according to the specific skill, and then according to the individual. You have to take care of the demands of travelling athletes that are entirely different from those who stay at one place,” he said.
Ramji said, unlike in India, it was common for cricketers from other countries to dabble in more than one sport. Glenn Maxwell, the flavour of the IPL this season, is known to be a compulsive golfer.
“From a young age, athletes in Australia or South Africa play Australian rules football, sailing, and rugby. When you do anything [continuously] for a period of time, your adaptation tends to plateau. If you push yourself then, you develop injuries,” he said.
Cross-training, in Ramji’s opinion, guards against repetitive injuries such as stress-fractures. “Playing other games is beneficial because endorphins are released in the brain and they calm the players down. These things also help in active recovery,” he said.
“Active recovery, which includes playing table tennis or slow-cycling, is better than passive recovery that involves getting a massage done or listening to music.”
Ramji, who was Mumbai Indians’ trainer between 2008 and 2011, said football had become “mandatory” in any team activity. However, some former cricketers have been critical of the football routine as it causes injuries at times. “It shouldn’t become too contact-oriented. Sometimes the competitiveness takes over. Dhoni, Sachin [Tendulkar], Viru [Virender Sehwag], and Zak [Zaheer Khan]…they don’t even touch anybody,” he said.
He added playing other sports would improve specific skill-sets. For instance, the racquet skills sharpened by Suryakumar Yadav, a badminton player in his youth, had played a part in improving his wrist-work.
The effect of playing multiple sports manifests in A.B. deVilliers’s all-round athleticism. “Jonty Rhodes played hockey very well while Rahul [Dravid] was an exceptional badminton player,” said Ramji.
Kings XI seamer L. Balaji said, as a bowler, running and momentum-centric exercises worked best for him. “You can’t straight away go inside a golf course and tee off. You need to have proper guidance to do stuff like that,” he said.
What is cross-training?
Cross-training broadly refers to an athlete training in sports other than the one he seriously pursues to improve performance.
Trainer Ramji Srinivasan says there were two ways of defining it. “You are trying to simulate in a relaxed environment what you are otherwise doing in a tense situation. “For instance, a fast-bowler working on his run-up could play a game of Frisbee or beach volleyball on the beach. While this helps harness the skills, it isn’t an ideal environment to work on them.”
The other definition, he says, involved “breaking away from the monotony.” “This is usually done in the off season to develop another faculty that’s normally lost in playing cricket.” Ramji says cross training was only one part of the training principle.
“There are more than 50 training principles,” he says.