“In India we think we have to do Olympic lifts, we have to do squats, we have to do this or that exercise. But the ultimate goal is that you have to be available for all games and web sessions, ”says AT Rajamani Prabhu, who coaches the Rajasthan Royals and Karnataka teams but was in the news after R Ashwin credited him with reviving his ailing body had .
So what was Ashwin missing? “I’m not against Olympic lifting,” Rajamani told The Indian Express. “It’s a very good tool for developing vertical forces. But if you don’t do it right … it comes from a completely different sport. If you do normal exercises with an emphasis on explosiveness and safe movements, you will get better results. That’s one thing I changed about him. “
Ashwin’s fitness had let him down most blatantly on the major tours of Australia and England in 2018 and 2019, where he couldn’t even come close to being available for all games. The injuries had become so chronic and debilitating that Ashwin even considered retiring during that time, he said in a recent interview with The Cricket Monthly.
Rajamani and Ashwin, both from Chennai, began working together a decade ago. And this particular customer became so important that Rajamani divides his career into phases “before Ashwin” and “after Ashwin”. He worked with the off-spinner for about three years until Shanker Basu became the India coach. Basu’s methods were, according to Ashwin, “completely left-wing field”. They also urged Rajamani to continue studying to improve.
If Ashwin felt that Rajamani had taken the loss of what was arguably his most prominent customer “personally”, he was right. “When great players leave you, it has a big impact. People say, ‘Oh look, Ashwin has left Rajamani.’ “
Getting Ashwin back was going to be a mission for Rajamani. “I don’t think I slept more than five hours a night in those three years. I kept learning, improving all the time to prove that I was going to be the best.
“I kept telling my team that one day Ashwin would call, and that day we would have achieved everything. Suddenly one evening Ashwin called. I was in the fitness studio. Before answering the call, I said to my people, ‘You see, Ashwin will be working with us. This is the day for us. ‘”
It was 2019. Ashwin hadn’t been in the Indian white ball setup for a few years. He hadn’t made it through Australia and England and had the feeling that despite repeated mishaps he wasn’t getting enough support from the team management. He wanted to try one more time to fix his body before giving up.
Enter Rajamani for a second stint. For the first 2-3 sessions, Ashwin was usually full of questions. “He’s the smartest athlete I’ve ever worked with. As a professional, he will never make an emotional decision. Even today, if he finds out that there is someone who is better than me, he will go to him. He asks all kinds of questions. But once he’s convinced, he’ll never ask again.
“Within a week he could see the difference, that this is the energy I want, that I lack all of this.”
Ashwin has said he is now doing mobility, strength and running ahead of a series in addition to skill. He used to focus less on speed and what Rajamani calls “minor” exercises.
“When he was doing strength exercises, he was not doing strength. When he made strength, he did not act one-sided [exercise using a single arm or leg]. If he was doing one-sided, he was not doing any upper body exercises. When he was working the upper body, he was not doing some minor exercises like shoulder, biceps, or triceps. These muscles are involved a lot in cricket, but we can forget about all these isolated exercises.
“So strength training is a component. The development of energy systems is also there. Then when you forget about speed … in cricket, speed is the most important criterion. He didn’t make a lot of speed. “
Pushing a cricketer hard in training during the off-season is one thing, says Rajamani, but getting them to lift weights while they play series is counterproductive as it adds to their already sizeable workload.
“Trainers get you to do strength training when you are already tired. So you keep getting slower. I told Ashwin that if you don’t do strength training for a week it won’t derail you, but if you miss three days of speed sessions, you lose 10 percent of your speed, which will make a big difference in gaming. From his experience over those three years, Ashwin felt the same way. ”
Of course, it is important to build trust with a player first if you are looking to buy in. “If someone isn’t playing a game and you tell them straight away to train, it hurts the player. Strength and stamina for team sport are completely different because everyone is different. “
Ashwin’s body is certainly different from that of a Virat Kohli or a Ravindra Jadeja, but Rajamani insists that it can now keep up.
“Everyone thinks he’s not an outdoorsman, but if they do a 2K test on the team, he’ll be third. He’s a good aerobics-based athlete. It developed like this after a lot of hard work. “
The hard work paid off with a performance as Man of the Series against England at home earlier this year, when Ashwin passed all four Tests and also took his fifth Test 100, in addition to 32 wickets. “He then called me and said we had achieved something,” says Rajamani.
Shortly thereafter, Ashwin was ignored in favor of Jadeja for all four tests on the England tour. With the left spinner now injured, Ashwin’s next target could be to stand for all three Tests in South Africa.
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