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Former England batsman and now a respected thinker and writer of the game, Ed Smith has worked as a consultant with Royal Challengers Bangalore over the past two seasons of the Indian Premier League.
He observed that under the tutelage of Team India and RCB's Strength & Conditioning Coach Shanker Basu, Virat Kohli instilled a new approach towards fitness not just among his teammates but in the wider world of cricket. Smith wrote about Basu, Kohli and the effect they are having on cricket.
Basu's journey began in another sport all together, his discipline of choice was the 100 and 200 meter sprint. Clocking a 10.6 and 21.9 in the 100m and 200m events respectively, Basu was determined to improve his staying ability over 200. He gradually intensified his regime by training for a longer distance of 400m. But to his surprise the results took a reverse hit as he got slower, reducing his top speed. He now clocked the 100m at 11.2.
Considering this a blessing in disguise, Basu mentioned, "That taught me a fundamental lesson: addition by subtraction,You must stop doing the wrong things, as well as (start) doing the right things."
This same blessing set up his career as a coach as he started to study cricketers. He noticed the aimless weightlifting and jogging, inappropriate training done by these cricketers, who failed to understand the athletic demands of their job.
The former Indian Cricket team fancied the belief that seniority in the team used to mean avoiding running around, however the modern Kohli led team has been made to work in reverse. The captain is moulding the Indian Team in his own image.
In 2014, Basu began working with Kohli. Taking inspiration from "track and field", they developed a precise and technically demanding weights programme aimed at speed and power forging an inquisitive partnership.
The 2016 IPL season is when Kohli began lifting weights under Basu's wing in the morning of each game. That very season Kohli scored an unprecedented 4 IPL centuries
"The difference is I can trust my legs – for power and for recovery," Kohli says. "I can run a hard two and be ready again." Power training became another strand of his confidence. "If I don't lift, I can't hit," as he puts it.
Kohli says. "I can run a hard two and be ready again." Power training became another strand of his confidence. "If I don't lift, I can't hit," as he puts it.
Kohli's incredible transformation from a touch player to now a touch player with a powerful long game as well making him the complete batsman is credited to Basu.
"I could never really hit sixes," Kohli says. "Now I hit 100-metre sixes. That is about training." Crucially, it results from training smarter, not just harder. It is also about the trusting relationship with a coach.
With Kohli at the helm of the Indian cricket team, he brings his electricity and mindset into the team. It clearly shows as the current conversations in the team are about athleticism and competition.
The captain takes a simple view on this as he sets no limit about how good he or the team could get.
This makes the fitness coach's job a whole lot easier as he can use one highly influential pupil to reach millions of people. Using the captain's charismatic stature and work ethic Indian cricket is suddenly about movement, causing a shift in how cricket is perceived.
Basu sees Test cricket as a great platform to evaluate the physical performance of a player since it requires strength and power along with the value of athleticism, that is in the shorter format, over a longer period of time. As well as the fact that it is highly demanding to deliver high level explosive athletic performances over a longer period.
This reflects in India's performance in Test cricket over the recent few years as they had a streak of 19 undefeated home tests, a record for the team. With the highlighting factor being the ability of the bowlers to sustain their pace over the five days.
With the belief that the craze for power in the T20, especially in the IPL, would send Test cricket into the shadow, however we can think otherwise as new life can be brought in Test cricket using concepts and ideas derived from T20 cricket.