Don't do a Samit: How to avoid getting dropped

You have to feel a bit for Samit Patel. He was dropped from the England squad because of "a failure to reach an acceptable level of fitness". International cricket has realised the game requires athletes who are cricketers, not just cricketers.

It's not just the international game though. The fitter you are the better you can perform at any level: lower injury risk, more speed, more power, and better fielding skills.

What has changed?

Up until a few years ago a bit of extra weight would not have been a problem. Its runs and wickets that count they said. Even now the club game is littered with chunky cricketers who churn out the results on Saturday afternoons week after week.

The growth of Twenty20 has begun to focus the mind on physical performance. When every ball becomes an event and every run can make the difference between a win and a loss your fitness takes on a lot more importance. A diving stop that saves a boundary requires fitness. A stolen quick single requires fitness.

Despite some notable exceptions, fitter players are now more likely to be selected than less fit ones. This even happens at club and grade cricket. In tight selection decisions more athletic players have the edge.

You can measure fitness

We can also learn another lesson from Samit's omission. Cricket is often a subjective game. It's hard to compare one player with another even when looking at averages. However, your fitness level is objective. You can only bench press as much as you can bench press. You can only run as fast as you can run.

Samit was tested and was found wanting in an objective measure. The more unfit you are, the more you risk losing an opportunity like Samit did to play at a higher level.

How to avoid Samit's mistakes

Cricket fitness is easy to achieve. Putting in some effort is not only good for your on field performance; it will help reduce your chances of getting dropped and increase your chances of moving up the standards.

As Samit has shown us, it's no longer enough to play cricket to get cricket fit. Here are some extra things you (and Samit) can do to get fitter, stronger, faster and healthier:

If you look for it you can find plenty of examples of successful overweight cricketers. If you perform on the pitch while being a bit chunky at your level you will probably get away with it. However, if you have ambitions to move up why would you take the risk?

Image credit: castle79



If you want a more guide to reducing injury risk and increasing cricket specific fitness, check out county strength coach Rob Ahmun's guide on PitchVision Academy.


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Comments

How do you define " fitness" and how do you assess it?

Runs and wickets are the only predictor because fitness tests are not the end.

What was the fitness program that Samit was given?

I suspect that appearance is given more importance than ability in cricket. I am not speaking for Samit and maybe his skills are that good.

But an Inzy and other tubby players at the international level could perform in any format.

Interested in David and Rob's comments.

With all sports now PR-obsessed, shape is probably more the issue here than the fitness and while you could never describe players like Gatting or Eddie Hemmings as svelte, the least fit England player during my time was Phil Tufnell. But impressions swing opinion, which is why Rob Key lost several stones to try to win back the England place he lost in 2005.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/international/england/4939653/S...

Now that is the truth.

So how does a person like Samit "lose" fat?

Diet : what should it be?

Training Program?

Interested to see how you coaches come up with to find a solution.

It's an interesting area. First, fitness is neither 'fluff' as the article suggests nor should it be the centre of a cricketers' universe.

However it is important. The fitter you are the less likely you are to be injured. Furthermore. the stronger you are the harder you can hit and throw (that's why men still have the advantage over women in the game), the faster you are the better you can run and bowl. The more athletic you are the more runs you can save in the field. Nobody can deny that.

There is a point about runs/wickets being the only true test. This is correct, but there is a correlation between general athletic ability and specific cricket skills. Particularity if your fitness level keeps you off the park by being more susceptible to injury.

If you imagine a graph with fitness level on one side and cricket performance on the other you would see most players with high runs and wicket also with high fitness levels. To pick out the few who buck that trend and site them as examples of the way modern cricketers should prepare is foolhardy at best. Are we suggesting everyone should train like Ian Botham or Inzy instead? I hope not!

Assuming we need some measure of fitness in modern cricket, that goes on to the question of "what is fitness"?

The article suggests it's just having less body fat. While this is part of it (less body fat equals more speed, stamina and mobility) it's not the only part. The ability to move efficiently and with agility, stay injury free, be strong and powerful, and run fast are all aspects of fitness that go beyond the lay person definition of having a 6 pack and jogging for miles (neither of which are essential for cricket).

As to Samit himself, let's ignore the possibility that politics played a part and assume he failed to reach required fitness standards through testing. These tests would be more than a cursory glance at his waistline. They would likely (at least this is what Glamorgan do) include body fat measurements, speed of running a single and a three, squat and bench press strength, and a movement screen for potential injury issues.

Although I'm not party to Samit's own programme, I know the ECB personalise plans for all England players and would liaise closely with the Leicestershire Strength and Conditioning Coach to draw up a plan to bring up his shortfall. The nature of the plan could be anything depending on test results.

We can only guess as to what results those would be. So it would be impossible to guess at Samit's plan.

David you said :

"However it is important. The fitter you are the less likely you are to be injured. Furthermore. the stronger you are the harder you can hit and throw (that's why men still have the advantage over women in the game), the faster you are the better you can run and bowl. The more athletic you are the more runs you can save in the field. Nobody can deny that."

"The article suggests it's just having less body fat. While this is part of it (less body fat equals more speed, stamina and mobility) it's not the only part. The ability to move efficiently and with agility, stay injury free, be strong and powerful, and run fast are all aspects of fitness that go beyond the lay person definition of having a 6 pack and jogging for miles (neither of which are essential for cricket)."

Agreed. So how would an ECB coach like you help a player like Samit? What are the ECB fitness tests and requirements?

Assessing in a test the speed of running a three or a single is purely an anecdotal. Because judgment is the key while taking runs. Most club and school cricketers can cover 20 yards with ease if the judgment of taking a run was not involved. Its hardly a distance to assess running speed. Its the more skilled batsman ( more body fat or not) who will be the better runner. The same guy could be slower in a fitness test where there is no requirement to hit the ball and judge the run. Do you get my point?

The point is, I think, that if you have two guys who are skilled runners, the faster one will come out ahead on this test. You are not testing 'Judgement' on this test, you are testing 'Speed'. You cannot ignore this aspect of cricket fitness. A player's training program should address both speed and judgement. Testing judgement is a whole different challenge. You would probably need a centre wicket session using fielders.
In the context of cricket, a run of 60m or 3x20m is quite appropriate.
As far as Inzy and others are concerned, he was certainly a great player. But he was not a great player BECAUSE he was over-weight. One can only imagine what his statistics would have been like if he was in Haydon or Pieterson's shape. He certainly would not have been LESS effective!
The fitter you are the better you play - this does not mean you will play better than another person, it just means you will play better cricket than you would have if you were less fit. There are very few pursuits where being fitter does not help you perform better - it can even improve your judgement. As some of Inzy's running partners might attest to!

Judgement is key I agree. Although if you are fast and a good judge (like say Paul Collingwood) then you will pinch more runs.

Plus, you need speed for more than just running between the wickets. Chasing a ball to the boundary also requires the ability to get to top speed quickly and maintain it over a short distance.

I'm afraid I don't know the ECB requirements and I also am not party to what testing they did on Samit. Both those facts mean I can't answer your question properly Peter. I would not like to guess without at least knowing the basics. Was he too fat? Too weak? Too slow? Did he have imbalances between his left and right sides? Was he too inflexible? Was he too flexible? Did he lack core stability? Each point needs a different solution.

Also, Samit Patel plays for Nottinghamshire to make a correction to my earlier post.

John Hurley your comment on Inzy is pure hypothesis. He played to his potential which was pretty good at the international level.

A run of 60 meters? what does that accomplish?

why not a 30 meter sprint instead ?

3 x 20 meters : time ??

David Lets assume the reason he was dropped was because he was slow and had gained too much fat. How would you as a coach help him improve?

60 meters or 3x20 meters is 3 runs! Probably the furthest a cricketer would have to sprint on a regular basis in a game of cricket.

30 meters would get you down and halfway back - where Inzy ended up on too many occasions for such a talented batsman!

I suppose it is hypothesis. But I reckon my hypothesis that the vast majority of people - regardless of their occupation - perform better when they are physically fitter, is shared by most if not all health professionals.

Any player who has unacceptable numbers as far as his weight, BMI, or body fat ratio is conerned can modify their diet and alter these numbers by lowering calories in(ie food) and increasing calories out (ie exercise).

A professional cricketer should have the time and resources to meet specified standards. If he cannot, he either has poor genes, a medical condition or a poor attitude. Any one of these will reduce his effectiveness on the field.

I still come back to my original point Peter. If you have two players of equal ability and one is in peak physical condition and one is not, and you had to pick only one player to play in your team, who would you pick?

If Samit wants to get picked in future he should do exactly what he was doing to get picked before, and he must also make himself fitter! He is obviously good enough in terms of ability - as are a number of players who are superior to him in terms of fitness. At the end of the day you would pick a player who has ticked all the boxes, not just some of them.

John,

Yes I know the math, just asking you why would you have a cricketer sprint 60 meters and not have him do sets of 30 meters, because 30 meters is the furtherest continuous sprint he would do. what would be the test time required?

Not sure you can say that Inzy ended up halfway because he could not cover ground or had judgment issues.

In practice It may not be that simple for some people to get those fitness results when they are also playing cricket. Unless they take a season off to only do fitness work.

Lets assume its not an attitude problem and he cannot do anything about his genes. How would you as a coach help him? We can all give advice but what exactly would be your approach?

Two players of equal ability is also hypothesis as there is no way to measure ability and with so many variables in cricket. I would pick the guy with better skills.

Speed is a notoriously difficult element to improve. I would give the player some strength work - particularly core; posterior chain (lower back, hamstrings, glutes and calfs) and shoulders. I would then try and improve running form and technique using drills (see some of these in my articles).

As far as the fat issue goes, I would have him monitor his diet and exercise to make sure he was not allowing fat stores to build. The extra sprint work would help in this regard.

The tests used for fitness would not be a secret to him. I would be conducting the tests and monitoring the results on an ongoing basis so if any "red flags" appeared we could address the situation straight away.

Some players face greater challenges with regard to their fitness. These players must CONSTANTLY stay on top of things!

Have a look at

http://www.topendsports.com/sport/cricket/testing.htm

and I am sure you will find this article by Andrew Gale quite interesting too.

http://www.topendsports.com/sport/cricket/fitness-demands.htm

Enjoy!
JH

I have a theory that certain players lose their natural ability and "muscle ability" by over-training. A good example will be the Indian player Irfan Pathan. The more he gained mucle mass, the less swing he managed while bowling. Zaheer Khan was reported saying the best way to stay fit is to keep on bowling. That way, the muscle memmory is retained and not alterd like in some gym work.

Each individual has a certain fat mucle ratio and limit for activity that is decided by his genetic make up. He needs to maintain that ratio for him to be comfortable and healthy. So Inzamam trying to a Hayden is not a realistic thought. Inzamam's body works the best with his natural ability. The more he tries to alter it, the less healthy and comfortable "he will feel" and his performance also might drop.

I am copying a link to a time magazine article which might be relevant in this context.
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1897920,00.html

Cheers
Ravi

Thanks JH.

Ravi, Quoting anecdotal evidence as you have done Irfan's case is completely unscientific. What you have is a hypothesis not a theory. A theory in science is derived from observation and empirical evidence. Its wrong to assume that gym work alters muscle memory. Do you know what exercises he did at the gym? He probably had the wrong program.

The second part of your post makes sense, but almost everyone can achieve a lower fat percentage with exercise and diet. Guys like Samit need to manage their calorie intake, decrease starchy carbs, increase protein and use a functional strength training program along with outdoor interval running work. He needs to focus on getting stronger and the rest will fall in place. Samit needs a bigger engine to help his movement improve as he is never going to a lean cricketer. If he is going to focus on "losing" weight he is going to have a hard time and his performance will be adversely effected.

Sounds like you know your onions peter. That advice is sound. It's also tricky to implement with a professional cricketer in the middle of a long season. But remedial plan would be, that's not the fault of the plan, merely a fact that in-season training is very difficult to manage. Great points.

JH and Ravi your links do not work.

Ravi, Another point to be noted is that what applies for the general population example BMI is not a good way to assess sportsmen.

David if the pro cricketer is dropped for those reasons, he needs to stay off playing and take control of his diet and training. But the big problem in the world of cricket is that there are too many trainers and too many exercise programs. Its more commerce. So they are on a roller coaster. Having said that I also think that assessment is a big problem and too many coaches go by appearance and not function on the field.

http://www.topendsports.com/testing/tests/1rm-bench-press.htm

JH this is the site you referred. I am appalled looking at the strength standard requirement ! It is excessive. It says a 1 RM bench equal to body weight is below average ! This is nonsense and does not apply for a cricketer.

Because for example a 180 LB adult man who has trained for a minimum of 8 to 12 months on a linear program of say 5x5, 3 times a week will reach a bench press equal to his body weight.

Only advanced power lifter bench 1.5 times their body weight !

And unless the cricketer has been on a linear weight lifting program for about a year, the 1 RM test is simply not appropriate.

Problem is peter that players rarely get dropped from their current side for fitness issues, they are just less likely to play at the next level. Take Samit Patel as the perfect example. He has not been selected for England but continues to play, rather well, for his county.

I do take your point though. A what point does a fitness issue become so bad a player should stop their season to correct it?

As for testing I discuss it: here. I welcome your thoughts on what testing you like to see peter. My personal opinion is that 1x BW for the barbell bench press is a reasonable request as long as it does not become an obsession for the player instead of quality all round training and practice!

Sorry Peter - that website reference is not cricket specific. The site I referred was cricket specific.

It was

http://www.topendsports.com/sport/cricket/testing.htm

not

http://www.topendsports.com/testing/tests/1rm-bench-press.htm

Sorry about the confusion.
JH

David You missed the point. To be more specific, the test requirement says that benching 1 RM of your BW is POOR. That is what I do not agree with as any cricketer who bench one 1RM of their body weight is strong enough.

JH it is the same website that you referred to and the 1Rm test are all linked. It is a misleading website.

David to answer your question at what point in the season - when he gets dropped. Although a serious cricketer should not allow it to get this point as JH says above. Although dropping a good player based on anecdotal ( relative to performance) tests like body fat tests etc, beep tests etc is not the best way to develop the game.

peter I agree. That said I can see a place for testing. While we don't want to obsess about fitness (there is a diminishing return after a certain point), we do want to measure and improve it because we can. It makes for players who feel more in control of their fate, which builds confidence.

Question is, how 'unfit' can you let a player get away with before you drop him or her? Is it a sign of a lax attitude or just someone who struggles to hit the gym and eat sensibly? Tough questions to answer.

There is no place for these fitness tests in cricket because the data corrupts the assessment of a player

How so? In a way we can't ignore fitness testing. Look at it this way, if a player pulls a hamstring and can't run he is unfit. That's a form of testing.

But that is not the way it is approached. Pulling a hamstring is an injury and a different issue from a 'certain' level of fitness. We are taking specifically about fitness tests that are used to assess a player for selection.

Fair enough. So what would be your ideal situation? No fitness testing? Cricket specific testing? Only testing for injury potential? A few select performance tests?

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