Posts Tagged ‘Cricket’

While the world runs away with lightening fast progress in the fields of sports medicine, sports science and sports performance and recovery nutrition, this is the kind of lousy, unscientific advice (see picture below) that our cricketers dish out to their juniors. And, to think that the Indian cricket board is the richest board and some cricketers feature amongst the richest of athletes in the world.


Imagine for a moment, that I came out with a book on how to win the world cup (of cricket)! I’d be a laughing stock in cricketing circles, wouldn’t I? However, the other way around is – most often than not – allowed. People in the fitness – sports world (athletes, fitness models and bodybuilders-strength athletes) are allowed to dispense unscientific and sometimes, even downright wrong advice on nutrition.

Keith Baar, PhD, a researcher of muscle physiology at the University of California, says, ‘everyone thinks that they are an expert in fitness if they are fit.’ Well, ain’t that the truth?! Interesting to note here that if you happen to don a visible set of six-pack abdominals, you are on your way to becoming a ‘guru’. Whatever you say, will be taken as gospel…

In effect, Dhoni says here that you can eat anything – provided it is during the first half of the day! According to him, ‘burning it off’ is all that matters! Whatever happened to the nutrients you need (as a sports person) to perform and to recover?! I feel sorry for gullible fans of his, who also happen to be budding cricketers and therefore, likely to slurp up every piece of (such!) advice that he dishes out…

If you were to argue that he is just talking about what he does, well, this quote of his is included in the THE OFFICIAL BCCI CRICKETER’S HANDBOOK, © 2017 GoSports Foundation. So, it is likely to be followed to the letter by his followers.


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Comical Cricket!

This is why I think cricket is the funniest game there ever was, is and will be…

McCrory, in The Wonderful World of Cricket 1reckons this is how you’d explain cricket to an American or a Canadian:

‘You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. 

Sometimes, you get men still in and not out. 

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!’

This comical, traditional version explaining what cricket really is, is found on tea towels in most test cricket venues in England – especially Lords (the famous Lord’s ‘Cricket Explained’ tea towel).

Nothing comical about Lord’s Cricket Ground though – it is one of the most stunning sporting venues that you’ll ever come across!

..The Fitness Doc at Lord's Cricket Ground, 2012

Me..at Lord’s Cricket Ground, July 2009


  1. McCrory, P. (2007). The wonderful world of cricket. Br.J Sports Med, 41, 467-468.

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Trent Bridge… the name itself inspires a sense of serene beauty.

It isn’t one of the largest sports grounds you’ll ever come across but when it comes to sheer beauty, it is up there. In fact, in my view it is so pretty that it should be considered one of the tourist spots in the Midlands.

Located in the vicinity of the Nottingham Forest football stadium, Trent Bridge derives its name from the bridge over nearby Trent river.

View from the Radcliffe Road End

View from the Radcliffe Road End

My first impression of Trent bridge was in 2009 during the World Twenty20 in England. That was the time when the Ashes 2005 Test at this very ground was still fresh in everyone’s mind. And, everyone at the stadium kept reminding you of Andy Flintoff’s exploits and how the Brett Lee six over Fox Road stand hit an Audi parked outside (which belonged to one of the officials of the Nottingham Cricket Council – the story goes the official later auctioned it off on EBay!).

View from the press box, Twenty20 World Cup, England, 2009

View from the press box, Twenty20 World Cup, England, 2009

Since then I have travelled frequently to Trent Bridge (using cricket matches just a pretence, I might add). It’s just the feeling of being there which really excites me!

In my book, Trent bridge is even prettier than Lords. It is like being on centre court at W19 watching a ladies’ singles final (rather prefer them to men).

View from the boundary line at Radcliffe Road End, Twenty20 World Cup, England, 2009

View from the boundary line at Radcliffe Road End, Twenty20 World Cup, England, 2009

That’s me in the last picture. A tad too many bears the previous year… living in Glasgow – as I used to those days – and frequenting City Centre ever so often, just gets you in the ‘spirit’, I guess! 😉

Working for Notts Cricket County

Working for Notts Cricket County

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In comparison to the growing popularity of cricket and the kind of money that’s been pouring in lately, surprisingly little is being done to improve fitness levels of cricketers. It is indeed a shame that not too many cricket players look like athletes, let alone move like them!

Although a sport where skills – as most ‘knowledgeable’ coaches will tell you – supposedly matter more than fitness (an utterly absurd notion that has caught on;  if you ask me,  I think it is bollocks! Improving fitness will also improve skills – any fat head can figure that out).

Fast bowlers (…and I am mean EXPRESS FAST BOWLERS, not dibbly-dobbly medium pacers) need to be right up there when it comes to conditioning – not only to consistently bowl lightning quick but also to prevent injuries. For a genuine fast bowler, athleticism is a quality that cannot be compromised upon and should be highly sought after by all aspiring fast bowlers (as well as the ones that are already up there – performing).  So, as a fast bowler, how do you go about achieving that top athletic conditioning? If you look around, there is not much of information available either on the internet or in the form of books. Here’s a little sample program that you could follow to give your fast bowling career a much-needed ‘fillip’.

Well, first of, forget the current season – you won’t be able to do much to improve your fitness levels or pace. Best time to start is the off-season. Although, strictly speaking, strength and conditioning should involve different phases like strength, power, sprint training and sports-specific skills (each phase lasting for a minimum of 16 weeks), I’d recommend a mix of these for someone who is (running short of time) already performing at the first class level and done a lot of work in the gym. However, for a young fast bowler, I’d suggest you spend upwards of 16 weeks in each phase.

The basic idea behind the ‘strength and conditioning program’ is to get that spring in the step – meaning improving muscle power – contrary to popular belief, vertical jump ability (a good indicator of muscle power) is a measure of not just lower body power but that of the whole body musculature. Also, improving anaerobic sprint ability, sprint endurance, isometric contractile ability in the lower limbs, as well as rotational power movements of the upper body will go a long way in improving your performance and keeping you injury free.

Here’s a strength and conditioning program that fast bowlers can use to get fitter during  the off-season so they are well prepared for the stresses of the season. Not to mention, it is a generic program, if you are looking for something  more specific, do gimme a shout and I will look to send over a personalized program; do not forget to mention your current status of fitness, activities you do, the pace at which you bowl, and any injuries or niggles.

You can download the strength and conditioning program for fast bowlers here….please note that to be able to put in Olympic moves in your training, I am expecting that you have already done a few months of strength training with the ability to squat with at least your body weight on the bar – two times body weight is even better!

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Did you know that despite all the brouhaha surrounding them, there is not much scientific proof that customized footwear in fast bowlers are any better than your regular cricket shoes.

In fact, in a study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, the researchers found that using customized shoes (ASICS 490 tr) increased lateral shear force and knee external rotation at the moment of front foot strike (Bishop and Thewlis, 2011).

Although, the study doesn’t prove the existence of a correlation between the increase in forces at front foot strike and injury potential, it does, in all likelihood, increase the chances of foot, ankle and leg injuries.

In comparison, the conventional shoes are characterized with reduced shear and loading forces at foot strike.

However, before jumping to conclusions, let us acknowledge that there is a need to further investigate the role of customized footwear in causing/preventing injuries. This will ensure use of improved footwear for injury prevention and improved performance.


Bishop, C., and D. Thewlis, 2011, Footwear in cricket: issues facing podiatrists treating fast bowlers: Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, v. 4, no. Suppl 1, p. 5.

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Dennis Keith Lillee – arguably the best fast bowlers of all time! He was quick, aggressive and dead accurate! Along with Jeff Thomson, Dennis formed, perhaps, the most feared bowling pair of all time!

But Dennis wasn’t just a great fast bowler; he was a ‘thinking cricketer’ as well. When he broke down in the West Indies in 1973 and was subsequently diagnosed with lumbar stress fracture, most thought his fast bowling days were numbered. Not Lillee though!

Seeking help from sports doctors and researchers from the University of Western Australia, Dennis went on a strength and conditioning program to get back to top fitness (not to mention to bowl quick and terrorize batsmen again).

Why – after almost 4 decades – are we talking about Dennis and his magical comeback?! Pretty sure, there must have been other miraculous cases of comebacks. While that is true, you’ve got to remember that what Dennis and his researcher friends did almost 50 years ago was pioneering work. What’s more, it is still so relevant today.

Dennis Lillee teaches us rather than playing catch up after getting injured (like Dennis did or most fast bowlers do even to this day) – it would make sense to go on a S&C programme to prevent injury in the first place. To get your hands on a sample strength and conditioning program designed especially for fast bowlers, click here.

Here’s a little look at Dr Frank Pyke’s protocol for Dennis Lillee – it makes for fascinating reading – note how the program doesn’t differ much from what you’d prescribe today – except for the fact that I’d rather put in more Olympic lifting and plyometric moves than bench press and arm curls!

Initial testing

Before commencing the S&C programme, baseline tests were conducted for monitoring progress; these were

      • Body weight
      • Body fat% using Skinfold method  (Yuhasz, 1962)
      • Submaximal and maximal treadmill performance (Pyke, Elliott, Morton, & Roberts, 1974)
      • Arm, shoulder and wrist strength (Clarke, 1953)
      • Arm and shoulder power (Glencross, 1966)
      • Lower back and hamstring flexibility (Wells & Dillon, 1952)

Strength and Conditioning Programme for Dennis

1.   Cardiovascular training

      • Initially 20 min. treadmill runs at 80% of maximal velocity
      • Interval treadmill training – 5 sec sprints and 15 seconds of walking

2.    Strength Training

      • General strength improvement to start off with – bench press, d. fys, incline sit ups were prescribed
      • Gradually increased intensity to 3 sets of 8 reps; less than a minute rest between sets
      • End of 9 week period – explosive weight training initiated along with movement based exercises and patterns that mimicked bowling – by using a pulley system, bowling with a 10kg resistance and using a 2kg med ball 

3. Flexibility training

      •  Flexibility work for lower back and hamstrings (mainly) as prescribe by Holt undertaken (Holt, 1974)

Given below are the results of the S&C programme

In addition to the impressive changes in the fitness parameters, Dennis’s performance in the comeback series against England was a great success. When in 1975, he was clocked against some of the other fast bowlers in the world; Dennis was the second fastest of the group – only Jeff Thomson was quicker!

To conclude, a sound sports specific (in this case, fast bowling specific) S&C programme will always bring out the best performance in an athlete – as proved by Dennis with the recovery conditioning programme. However, fast bowlers and their handlers need to realise that previous injuries are an important predictor for future injury. Therefore, it makes even more sense to include strength and conditioning and improved biomechanics to prevent injuries in the first place.


Clarke, H. H. (1953). Cable Tension Strength Tests. Springfield, Massachusetts: Brown-Murphy Co.

Glencross, D. J. (1966). The Power Lever: An Instrument for Measuring Power. Research Quarterly, 37, 202-210.

Holt, L. E. (1974). Scientific Stretching for Sport. Halifax: Holt.

Pyke, F. S., Elliott, B. C., Morton, A. R., & Roberts, A. D. (1974). Physiological adjustments to intensive interval treadmill training. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 8, 163-170.

Wells, K. F. & Dillon, E. G. (1952). The Sit and Reach – A Test of Leg and Back Flexibility. Research Quarterly, 23, 115-118.

Yuhasz, M. S. (1962). The Effects of Sports Training on Body Fat in Man with Predictions of Optimal Body Weight; Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. University of Illinois.

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Big Merv has a go at Graeme Hick

There is no better sight in cricket than a young, athletic fast bowler bustling in to bowl, ending up with an awe-inspiring follow-through – the additional verbal assault at the batter adds the proverbial cherry to the cake!

Cricket is one of the oldest sports known to mankind. With the advent of one day cricket in the mid 1970s and Twenty20 in the early 2000s, its popularity has soared immensely. However, due to the staggering number of international and domestic matches being played now-a-days, there is a need to focus on prevention and management of injuries to players so as to prolong careers. Fast bowlers are more likely to get injured and have their careers curtailed as a result. Ever since Dennis Lillee injured his back in the early 70s, designing effective methods to save the awesome breed of ‘tear away’ fast bowlers has been of foremost concern to sports medics, conditioning coaches and players alike.

Epidemiology of lower back pain in cricket

Researchers from South Africa, Australia, England and the West Indies have reported that lower back injuries occur in almost 60% of cricketers. The reasons attributed are – inadequate pre-season physical conditioning and psychological preparation, sudden escalation in training frequency when the season commences, unnatural biomechanics of fast bowling, long duration of bowling spells and cumulative workload over the season.

Lower back pain and injuries in fast bowlers 

Bowling is responsible for most back injuries in cricket – a longitudinal study carried out in South Africa found that bowling accounted for most of the injuries in cricket (41%) .
An interesting static is that compared to batsmen, wicket keepers, spin bowlers or medium pacers, fast bowlers are at particular risk of lower back pain and injuries. Concomitant hyper-extension of lumbar spine and rotation of the thoracic spine and lumbar spine, especially when it occurs very rapidly as in fast bowling places a significant amount of stress on the lumbar spine. This increases risk of injuries to the bones, joints, ligaments and muscles in and around the lumbar spine with resultant back pain.
Pain is gradual in onset and is characteristically described as the ‘crescendo-type’ of pain, i.e. occurring at the end of day’s play initially, then earlier the next time around and so on. Typically, lower back is sore when the player bends backwards especially if standing on one leg.

Risk factors for injury in fast bowlers

Traditionally, fast bowling lower back injuries have been thought to occur due to hereditary factors, lack of proper technique, poor physical conditioning, and lack of pre-season preparation. There are two distinct actions by which pace bowlers deliver a cricket ball, side-on and the front on – defined depending upon the attitude of the feet, the non bowling arm, the shoulders, upper torso and the follow through. A third kind of action involves some features of either of these actions. The biggest disadvantage of mixed action is that it involves greater rotation of the shoulders to realign with the rest of the body. Current view holds that a front on action is much better suited to prevent injuries. However, I am sceptical if that utilizes the full power and strength that the core has to offer.


In most cases, complete rest from the sport is the treatment of choice. During this time, a progressive rehabilitation program to strengthen the structures supporting the lower back should be undertaken. Improving trunk core stability and flexibility should be undertaken. Use of a brace while bowling to support the back proves quite helpful.

Subtle modifications to the bowler’s actions can be undertaken to reduce the stresses on the vertebrae.

Surgical intervention is rarely required.

Pre-season Conditioning

Shoaib Akhter

The aim of pre-season conditioning in cricket, as in any sports, is to get lean, strong and improve athleticism. Rather than indulging in bodybuilding exercises like bench press or arm curls – which target slow twitch muscle fibres and increase muscle size – the onus should be on improving muscle power – enhancing jump ability is a very reliable measure to go by. In addition, lateral mobility, reflexes, reaction time and shoulder, hip, knee and ankle stability should be given due importance in the conditioning program.

Olympic lifting, plyometric training, sprint interval training as well as sports specific training (bowling) with impediments like chutes, rollers, ankle weights or weighted vests helps improve sports specific movement patterns and thus reduces injuries.  Improving core power and stability, especially that during lateral rotation, will prove immensely beneficial in preventing back injuries. Boxing, martial arts as well as exercises like ‘wood-choppers’ on a cable station are some ways to bump your core power and stability.

Proper breathing technique during explosive lumbar rotation will maximize power production whilst reducing risk of injury – best way to learn this is to master the Kiai  technique from your martial arts instructor.

Download a sample strength and conditioning program for fast bowlers here.


The mechanisms underlying lower back pain and injury need to be investigated further. Designing preventive interventions for proper management of fast bowlers, especially from the early years may go a long way in allowing them in pursuing ‘pain free’ careers so we can enjoy the sights of ‘tear away’ fast bowlers in full steam!

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