India vs West Indies: No Caribbean cruise, fitness focus for Virat Kohli’s team | india-vs-west-indies-2017 | Hindustan Times
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India vs West Indies: No Caribbean cruise, fitness focus for Virat Kohli’s team

Focus on diet and workouts has turned the India team into a cohesively trim unit, and there is no let up for the Indian cricket team even in the easy-paced West Indies limited-overs series.

india vs west indies 2017 Updated: Jul 04, 2017 19:52 IST
Khurram Habib
Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team have focused mainly on a rigorous fitness drill in order to keep themselves determined and focused even during the series against West Indies.
Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team have focused mainly on a rigorous fitness drill in order to keep themselves determined and focused even during the series against West Indies.(AFP)

It’s about 10 am at Sugar Ridge resort in Antigua, India’s second stop before landing in Jamaica for the final leg. Shikhar Dhawan is entering the gym with his wife Ayesha, a kick boxer, while R Ashwin is already there, lifting weights under the supervision of the team trainer.

The off-spinner has lost a lot of weight recently and seems to have no flab, just like Dhawan and skipper Virat Kohli.

Rishabh Pant, the newcomer in the side and the only one with some body mass, is already on the treadmill. It’ll take a couple of tours before he gets to the male equivalent of ‘size zero’.

“Play or no play, the guys have to burn the same amount of calories every day. There can’t be one off-day that can threaten to take them a step back,” informs a team member.

Every player had a cottage to himself in the secluded area of the resort where the India team stayed during the Antigua leg. However, Antigua being a holiday destination, there were other parts of the resort where bands played and people danced and drank.

Kohli early to bed

But as an Indian team member says, “Virat Kohli wouldn’t want those places for the team. He is in bed at 9-9.30 pm.”

If that information about the skipper’s sleeping habit is right, it is a sea change for a player known to hit the bed only in the wee hours even while playing age-group cricket, much to the annoyance of traditionalists.

There is a small Indian restaurant Castaways, with two Indian chefs, at Jolly Beach, about 500 metres away from Sugar Ridge. That is the farthest the team members went sometimes, to eat and bond over a game of beach volleyball.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and other Indian cricketers have stayed away from rice, bread or anything that can affect their fitness or make them feel lethargic. (AP)

On two successive days, pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami had dal-chaawal at Castaways, but that is as far as the players would go to indulge themselves while the support staff accompanying them had a few drinks and calorie-rich food.

“They have to make these sacrifices, keep temptations away. It is hard,” informs the member.

Gluten-free the mantra

Even when Indian food is ordered, there are no takers among the players. “Kohli and many others don’t normally eat rice, bread or anything that can affect their fitness or make them feel lethargic,” says the team member.

Ishant Sharma, who is not in this tour, had recently told this correspondent how the Indian players’ diet is mostly gluten-free and how powerlifting has been included to their workouts.

“This team is really focused and disciplined. We think about sleeping times and eating habits,” says Ajinkya Rahane, one of fittest India players. “During IPL, I didn’t get time but during the Champions Trophy, I worked on my fitness really hard and that is proving handy here,” said the batsman who is in great form, having scored 62, 103, 72 and 60 in the first four ODIs.

“Fitness is important. We’ve been playing continuously since the New Zealand series, so we have to take care of our fitness as professional athletes. Recovery is important whenever we are travelling and playing.”

Batting coach Sanjay Bangar has said the primary criteria for players to stay in the team will be fitness. (AFP)

The test for any older player, be it MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh or anyone else who wants to retain his place will be fitness, batting coach Sanjay Bangar has said.

Kohli on fitness and future

Kohli puts the fitness focus into perspective.

“The mindset as a cricketer is always to be able to play all formats with equal commitment and intensity. I’ve based my fitness on that. If you want to play all formats and want to be at the top of your game then you have to understand that your physical needs are much larger as well.”

However, former India skipper Kapil Dev had expressed concern over too much emphasis being laid on fitness, especially at the way Virat has gone about it.

“What he (Kapil Dev) says is accurate. People can burn out very soon. It is about maintaining a balance. With time, and the amount of cricket you play, you have to be wary of when to rest and how to manage your energy levels and how to take care of your stamina and nutrition; all those things become important.

“Obviously, you can’t move away from the reality of your body and how, when you become older, you need to manage your body. I won’t say you can go at 150% intensity every time you play for 6-7 years in a row. Obviously, you have to slow down at times.”