Gone are the days when the Indian team took a beating from the analysts and pundits on their fitness levels. The team has seen a stellar transformation and has become one of the fittest sides in world cricket. The rise of young players is one of the major reasons for this growth.
Train like an athlete, eat like a nutritionist, sleep like a baby, win like a champion – that is the mantra that the Indian team has followed to reach these goals. Virat Kohli has been leading from the front with his incredible level of fitness. However, even he was not at the top of his fitness game in the beginning.
Virat was extremely fond of shikanji which is high-calorie drink made from milk, ice cream, dry fruits, and sugar (probably still is). Apparently, whenever he was in Nagpur he would order the drink after getting to his hotel and have two glasses in one go. Virat is now vegan and he has left the Shikanji days behind to lead the team in the bid to become an extremely fit unit.
Former Team India coach Duncan Fletcher had once said that cricket is the most unprofessional sport. He was probably referring to the unfit and casual nature of the Indian players with regards to their diet and training. It was not the case that the strict diet and regime was not enforced by the coaches. The players did not adhere much to it as their performances were top draw anyway. The players themselves did not believe it was as important to be fit as players in other sports.
The pressure was not that high in those days – just the World Cup in four years and five-day test matches did not demand much from the players. However, with the introduction of T20 and the IPL, the nature of the sport has changed as it has become gruesomely demanding.
Virat set an example in this matter by picking up a vegan diet and letting go off all his food fantasies and guilty pleasures. One could also say that this transformation came when coach Duncan Fletcher spoke to him about the importance of his fitness. Another strong member of the team is the former captain MS Dhoni. While Dhoni has his own ways of staying fit – badminton and football – he hits the gym alternate days for an hour.
The selection for the Indian team did not involve a stringent fitness test that needed to be passed for the longest time. That changed with the introduction of the Yo-Yo test. A gruesome running test that can be a lot more excruciating than what meets the eye.
It is this Yo-Yo test, the rise of young players, Virat and Dhoni leading from the front and the demanding nature of the game that is the reason behind India’s growth as a fitness unit.
One thing we Indians know is that whichever spectrum we enter into, we make sure we’re at the peak of it someday; and, the Indian team is probably at the peak of its fitness ahead of the ICC World Cup 2019.