Monash University CC News
Modern Cricket Fitness
By Claire Rocastle
These days greater emphasis is put on fitness in cricket than ever before. This applies equally to the top class and the amateur game. Gone are the days when an away match could be seen as an excuse to get drunk, with the match just a preliminary to the main event. This was no good for the player’s physical or mental fitness. Nor does it do anything for the morale of the team if its game suffers and results are poor. Improving player fitness improves performance and gives the team the chance to achieve its full potential. As South African Cricket head of fitness Rob Walter puts it: ‘The better conditioned players will recover quicker and put themselves in a position to deliver a superior level of performance, consistently.’
Traditionally, cricket was seen as a game that made fewer physical demands on the player than other sports. In India, this was part of its original appeal: it was a sport fit for the high caste Brahmins as it required no great exertion of energy. Of course this is not the complete story. However, the point is made: everywhere cricket was played it was seen as a leisurely game, despite the length of a match compared to other sports and the obvious physical demands of playing in the intense heat of midsummer, which alone can be extremely draining.
The picture of the cricket match as a lazy, leisurely afternoon in the sun has now completely changed. Now it is one of intense physical training, conditioning and mental preparation – and not only during the playing season. The English county player Alan Richardson says: ‘Instead of thinking about getting fit a few weeks before the start of summer, our latest pre-season started six months before the current campaign. I can honestly say that, if we were still doing the same pre-season routine we were doing back when I first started, I would not now be playing.’
Conditioning gives an athlete the ability to realize his potential. In a close game between two teams of roughly equivalent talent, it is the team that is physically capable of playing at its best down to the last ball that will take the victory. Better fitness and stamina will give you the edge that translates into speed, power and endurance, which means hitting the boundary more often, stealing that sneaky single, running for that catch, or maintaining the pace and accuracy of your bowling. Good nutrition is essential. You will get more out of your workouts by eating appropriate foods to fuel your body beforehand, making sure you are well hydrated, and then complete your preparation with an approved energy supplement. Glyco Energy states that: ‘Whether you’re a professional athlete, regularly participate in sport or you’re simply passionate about fitness, the importance of preparation for a workout can’t be emphasized enough.’ Whatever level you play at, working on your fitness will keep you there longer or help you to move up the levels.
A fitness plan
Your annual fitness plan will specify different routines and levels of activity depending on whether you are doing preseason training (13 weeks), offseason maintenance of fitness levels (9 weeks), inseason maintenance of fitness alongside the intensity of match play (26 weeks), or postseason rest and recovery (4 weeks). During this postseason period, your aim is to continue a regime of light exercise, including playing other sports, in order to keep your fitness at a level that will make the increased activity of preseason training easier on the body.
During the preseason period your aim is to achieve peak fitness in readiness for the start of the playing season. This should include exercises to improve endurance, sprint fitness, speed, agility, strength and flexibility as well as raised levels of training on specific cricket skills. Regular, sustained aerobic exercise such as jogging, cycling, swimming and rowing should be done for at least twenty minutes per session three times a week. This will strengthen your cardiovascular system and increase stamina, which is vital for a long match in the heat of summer. Anaerobic exercise such as sprinting – whether running, swimming or cycling – or high-intensity interval training or powerlifting, will build your ability to react quickly, using short bursts of energy and then recovering quickly, which is essential for your batting and fielding skills.
Your aim during the playing season is to keep fit without wearing yourself out before a match and to keep to your healthy diet. It’s all about match day. Muscular strength is maintained with weight training and resistance exercises such as pushups, squats, bar pullups and bench presses. With this sort of exercise, correct technique is important for optimum benefit and to avoid injury. You should work on increasing all-round strength in your upper and lower body. Do each exercise in sets of three, with eight to twelve repetitions of each exercise per set. Aim to do one or two resistance exercise sessions per week with a gap of at least three days for recovery. Flexibility is essential for a cricketer, so you should do regular stretching exercises. Do this at the beginning of any exercise session and then again for a longer period at the end, working on key joints and holding each stretch for fifteen to twenty seconds. Maintaining flexibility is important for avoiding injury.
Better conditioning allows players to recover more quickly from matches and to give of their best throughout the season. The most important aspects of recovery are good sleep and good nutrition. The deep sleep phase of sleep, which is only achieved during a full night’s sleep, is when the mind and body refreshes itself after intense activity. Napping will not do. Neither will snacking and irregular meals. Proper nutrition, including a post-match meal that is high in carbohydrates and a protein supper before going to bed, aids muscle recovery and regeneration. Other aids to recovery are common to all athlete’s recovery routines, including wearing compression garments during and after matches, alternating hot and cold baths, ice baths, sessions in the pool and stretching exercises.
To get the most out of your fitness training, make it as relevant to your game as possible. Work on both your technical and physical weaknesses and get advice from experienced players. Eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and lean meat will give you more energy and help in recovery, and drinking plenty of water is essential for you to perform at your best or get the most out of your workout. Push yourself, but don’t push too hard. You need to go into a game fit and full of energy, not tired and worn out.