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"I Had A Number Of Restrictions"

During the first India-New Zealand Test match at Mohali, the new Indian physio Andre Leipus from South Africa handed out a four-page questionnaire to each player in the Indian squad.It mapped their anatomical peculiarities, history of injuries and ot

"I Had A Number Of Restrictions"
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Were you satisfied with the fitness levels of the Indian players?
Overall, no. But some players worked very hard and were very good.

How do the Indians compare with players from other countries?
I feel the best of the Indians are on par with cricketers from other countries - players like Robin Singh and Rahul Dravid would be considered good fielders in any team.

What did you concentrate on when you were the physio? Could you discuss the individual regimen you prepared for the players?
I was aiming at increasing the speed of most players by a combination of speed techniques (plyometrics) and by losing excess body weight. I also worked towards injury prevention by providing a programme of exercises focusing on the rotator cuff muscles for throwing and bowling and for abdominal strengthening. I don't like to talk about individual players. I have given my suggestions in a report to the bcci.

What do the Indians lack? Why don't they attain the levels of the Australians or the South Africans?
They mostly lack speed and the ability to dive. In Australia and South Africa we are taught to dive from a young age and it's a part of our sports (rugby, football etc), but in India the cricket grounds are usually very hard and players risk injury by diving. To gain speed requires hard work and specific training - which is ideally done in an off-season, and the current team lacks that.

What was the attitude of the players towards their fitness? Did it leave much to be desired?
I think it was thought of as being secondary to cricket skills and its importance was probably not emphasised enough at any level. Again, certain players were excellent and their efforts in the field are obvious, while some players did leave a lot to be desired.

Could you give specific instances where the lack of fitness made an impact on a game?
I think it influenced many situations. Basically my theory is if you work hard, it may make a 5 per cent difference. Let's say each player saves one run in the field with a good dive or chase and then makes one extra run by running the first one hard - it'll mean an extra 22 runs. Obviously, every game is influenced. Concentration is also enhanced by fitness and this is something difficult to measure. Look at Dravid's ability to stay at the crease with excellent concentration.

Did you get sufficient time to work on the players?
No. On arrival in '98, I'd asked the bcci for a two-week fitness-only camp which was never provided. I was never given more than a day consecutively to work specifically on fitness. One's fitness base needs to be obtained in an off-season and maintained mid-season. The Australians had 4 months off in '98 when they had a chance to recover from injuries and improve fitness. I was under a number of restrictions which affected my ability to provide the service required. Certainly the freedom to assist in planning and training camps and first contact with injured players (as well as following them up ) is essential to the position.

Where are the latest fitness techniques leading to?
Injury prevention, mainly. Then basic fitness aspects like speed, agility and strength.

Keeping in mind the injuries to Srinath and Sachin, what balance - between being a casualty of too much cricket and being able to extend his career - would you suggest for a player?
I do feel they are playing too much cricket - longer breaks are needed between long tours involving lots of travel. Also, every two years or so, a longer break is necessary. However, players want to play more cricket with the counties between the breaks, so maybe we should be asking them this question and have them assist with scheduling. Obviously, fast bowlers require the most rest.

Where do you think the players really benefited from you?
That's up to the players to decide - but I feel there is a realisation of the importance of fitness and gym programmes as well as a change of routine (food habits, different training and so on).
There's the view that you can't really train players when they are on tour because they have to concentrate on playing. So their fitness level actually falls on tours!
This is true. At least, the fitness level is maintained but it's almost impossible to actually improve during tours.

Were some players hiding injuries at any time to be able to play?
No, not if they were significant enough to hamper performance.

Any embarrassing moments for you?
Plenty, that's what touring is all about. For me, it was probably being recognised in the streets initially, then there was the article about my supposed affair with Preity Zinta about which all the boys had a go at me!

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