Cricket is a game of inches. Imagine playing in an Academy trial game when you push a ball to cover and set off on a risky single.
It’s on, but only if you can get up to top speed in a couple of strides.
You have worked on your power, speed and acceleration all winter and you fly out of the blocks, you are in by the smallest margin and go on to make a huge score, get that Academy place and on into the cricket stratosphere.
Had you been half a second slower - as the old pre-training you was - then you would have been run out and missed your chance.
That’s why everyone who runs a cricket Academy these days stresses the importance of fitness. Sure you might get away with being unfit and talented, but with fitness standards increasing at the top level you owe it to yourself to train hard. Everyone else is doing it.
So exactly how fit do you have to be to be on a par with other Academy level players?
Take small steps
The answer to that question depends on the standards set by any particular Academy setup. However, the best players don’t worry too much about the minimum standards; they simply work hard, regularly and make small incremental improvements towards their goal.
In that way you are taking personal responsibility for your fitness, and becoming your own Academy.
To gym or not to gym?
The other big question is whether you need to attend a gym or not to reach your goals.
Again it depends on your specific aims, and the fitness testing you are doing. For example you don’t need a gym to improve your sprint speed in pads. You just need pads and an open space. You can even do it in nets. Mobility and flexibility work requires zero equipment except perhaps a resistance band and foam roller.
On the other hand, if you are looking to get stronger and more powerful you probably are going to need external resistance at some point. Bodyweight training can only get you so far, even if you are under 18.
My opinion is strongly to use a gym setting as long as you can do it in a safe environment. It allows you to meet certain standards, gives you a place to go with equipment you can use and lets you focus for to 45 minutes you are in there. The benefits are physical and psychological.
Fitness standards for cricketers
Despite all these provisos about age and access to equipment/coaching, I couldn’t finish this article without giving you some standards I consider to be achievable and realistic for healthy and ambitious cricketers.
These are not gospel, and they are not supposed to de-motivate you if you have never even looked at a barbell.
Use them as a guide to fitness that will put you in the same standard as very fit Academy players:
- Barbell Back Squat: 1.5x Bodyweight (so a 70kg player can squat 105kg for 1 rep)
- Barbell Bench Press: 1.25x Bodyweight
- Press Up: 30
- Deadlift: 1.5x Bodyweight
- Hang Clean: 1.25x Bodyweight
- Chin Up: 10 Reps
- Plank: 1m 30s
- All run three (with bat and gloves, no pads): Under 10.2 seconds
As always, these standards are for the lift performed with good technique. No cheating or help from spotters is allowed!
Also, they are not comprehensive as you still need to work on your core stability and mobility beyond these numbers. A good warm up should cover these elements off so don’t skip it.
If you are at this standard, well done keep going. If you have a way to go then keep plugging away a little at a time. Training is about accumulation.
Modern cricketers are stronger, faster and more agile than ever. If you want to be in an Academy (or you run one), fitness standards are a must.
So, for a training programme designed by a professional who works at Academy level all the time, enrol on the online course Strength and Conditioning for Cricket at all Levels by Rob Ahmun (ECB and Glamorgan CCC).