IPL 2020: How an Olympic sprinter is helping KKR get faster
IPL 2020: Having worked at High Performance Sport New Zealand, an institute heavy on sports science and technology, before moving to New Zealand Cricket, there is more to Donaldson than running.Updated: Sep 17, 2020 21:56 IST
Acceleration, says Chris Donaldson, is a potential game-changer in cricket. And just so you don’t start thinking this is an Olympic sprinter moving the conversation to his area of strength, the new Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) strength and conditioning coach offers an explanation.
“From fielding, diving to chasing the ball to the boundary, doing that run out, all these things contribute a major part to the game. You can make quite a difference in the first two metres of how you accelerate. It is something we work hard on,” says the 45-year-old New Zealander from KKR’s base in Abu Dhabi.
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Donaldson hopes his domain expertise will also improve KKR’s running between the wickets and bowlers’ run-ups, particularly important for the Kolkata team given their deep fast-bowling strength.
“It’s not trying to change everything because people here are very good at what they do. (But) Track and field deals with all sorts of movement patterns, the fundamentals of the way people move and jump. I will hopefully be able to use some of the skills I have learnt and developed and help people deal with their running issues. (For bowlers) I might be able to help from the movement point of view, make the run-up more efficient or look at the bio-mechanics of the way they are landing,” he says.
Having worked at High Performance Sport New Zealand, an institute heavy on sports science and technology, before moving to New Zealand Cricket, there is more to Donaldson than running.
“He has a great set of exercises,” says young fast bowler Shivam Mavi. “One look and he can tell you that this area is strong and that needs to be worked on,” says Kamlesh Nagarkoti who, like Mavi, has had long spells of absence due to injuries.
An IPL franchise hiring an Olympic athlete is a first, but KKR have made left-field appointments in the past. Rudi Webster, eminent sports psychologist and former first-class cricketer, was hired as mental skills coach in 2012 when KKR got their maiden title. Mike Horn, the South Africa-born Swiss adventurer, has been intermittently with the team since 2014, when KKR won again. After Brendon McCullum was named head coach, he dialled Donaldson, with whom he had worked as New Zealand captain en route to finishing runners-up in the 2015 World Cup.
“He (McCullum) asked if I would be interested. You don’t miss that type of an opportunity and I know how lucky I am to be here,” says Donaldson.
Then Covid-19 happened and Donaldson had to “think outside the square.” Cue, team bonding on Zoom calls through “bedroom workout routines” which gave “the boys’ sessions that they could create and do in their hotel rooms or at home.”
“The sessions were designed to push them so that when we came out of lockdown, hopefully, we didn’t need to play too much catch up. Also, it gave them something to do each day,” says Donaldson.
“There have been some unbelievable workouts. They are hard, and if you haven’t worked out for a while, you can’t do it. Sore bodies for a couple of days. But it’s amazing and very, very helpful for all the boys in this time of staying indoors,” KKR mentor Abhishek Nayar was quoted as saying in kkr.in about Donaldson’s regimen.
Building on that base, Donaldson says that the players were made to go “pretty hard at the end of lockdown.” Arriving in UAE, “we loaded them a lot trying to make them cricket-hard and physically hard so that we can taper off leading into the tournament…. Sometimes, I have to hold them back because they try to do too much.”
KKR open against defending champions Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi on September 23. Donaldson says it’s “amazing” that there will be no flying with matches in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai. “It will definitely help with recovery and stop tiredness creeping in.”
The son of famous filmmaker Roger Donaldson, the KKR coach says he had no stories to share of life in Los Angeles simply because he had a regular upbringing in New Zealand. “I would get the opportunity to experience something different when I would go there. It was always a lot of fun but it certainly didn’t lead to Hollywood parties.”
Roger’s films include the Tom Cruise-starrer ‘Cocktail’, ‘No Way Out’ and ‘Thirteen Days’ with Kevin Costner and Dante’s Peak with Pierce Brosnan. His first feature, ‘Sleeping Dogs’ had Sam Neill. He got a Golden Palm nomination at Cannes in 1984 for ‘The Bounty’ (starring Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson).
His son’s tryst with fame came through athletics and one of his feats has aged well. Along with Dallas Roberts, David Falealili and James Dolphin, Donaldson created a New Zealand national record in the 4x100 relay; their time of 38.99 set in November 2005 still stands. Donaldson also took part in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, the 1998 and 2006 Commonwealth Games. He finished seventh in the 100m and 200m in 1998.
“Those races were the highlight for me. (Ato Boldon won the 100m). And the world championships in Greece (1997) where I made the semi-finals in 200m running alongside the people you idolised and saw on TV,” he says.