Indian cricket's approach to fitness has undergone a shift. Since Gary Kirsten took over as coach, the approach was to encourage players to take responsibility for the kind of practice and training they required.
This was the thinking behind making most of the net sessions optional and giving players training regimes that were not necessarily supervised on a day-to-day basis by trainer Paddy Upton.
After reviewing this method, the thinktank felt that while this worked well when it came to cricket skills, some players might benefit more from a hands-on approach to fitness. “While the players are still ultimately responsible for their own fitness and are professionals, we thought we might get the best results by having someone hands on to help Gary and Paddy,” a BCCI source said.
The first part of this new approach was the fitness review conducted at the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi on Monday. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, RP Singh, Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma were all put through their paces in a session at the Capital.
The main objectives of the tests were taking stock of the players' fitness and conditioning levels as well as preparing a reference point for later in the season.
Talking to the Hindustan Times, a source who helped oversee the process said the emphasis of the tests was to 'help create a basic outline for the training programme for the season'.
“The players have been out of action for a while now, and the team thinktank thought it would be a good time to assess their fitness levels,” the source said. “The idea was to see where the players stood in terms of their strength, power, speed and endurance levels.”
Asked whether there were special programmes for each of the eight cricketers, the source said: “There wasn't a prescribed routine that the players had to follow, while some laid more emphasis on working on their overall body strength, others did a little bit of work on their speeds.”
With four of the eight being pacers, there was extra attention paid to exercises for the lower body. “Some of the pacers have had a lot of workload recently, and have had stress fractures of their ankles, with that in mind, we wanted them to work on their lower body strength,” the source said.
Soon after India's unceremonious exit from the ICC World Twenty20 in England, the team's coaching group, in consultation with Dhoni, identified several key areas they needed to improve on.
In the course of that meeting in West Indies, it was agreed that the whole group could raise standards in the fitness department. With that in mind, the BCCI felt that the team would benefit from having a full-time trainer working with Upton and physiotherapist/team doctor Nitin Patel.
“We felt that it would be best to have someone who could work with the players on a hands-on basis,” a BCCI source told HT.
The Board has called up Ramji Srinivasan, who was present at the fitness review in Delhi. Ramji has been a trainer with the MRF Pace Foundation and has also worked with Sachin Tendulkar, who was struggling a shoulder injury in 2007.