The rate at which international sport is played today to remain on top of your game requires not only overall fitness but a sense of dedication on the part of the individual as well because a slight decline in those standards which is humanly possible could lead to a dramatic drop in form or performance.
The Sri Lanka cricket team has been renowned over the years for its high standards on the field especially their fielding which has been spoken in glowing terms by international cricketers and commentators alike. It has been the fielding that has taken Sri Lankan cricket to Himalayan heights winning two World Cups – a fifty-over in 1996 and a twenty-over in 2014, apart from making them one of the most competitive sides in all three formats of the game.
However in recent times not only the fielding but the overall performances of the players has dipped to the extent that Sri Lanka’s new interim head coach Jerome Jayaratne was forced to make the remark that we are the worst fielding side in Asia.
Undoubtedly, if one is to look at the way the present side has been performing in the past year or so. Dropped catches has come with such regularity that it has cost the team important games. It has also affected the performances of the batsmen who with the exception of a handful have been unable to concentrate in producing the runs they are capable of putting up on the board. Thankfully the bowlers to some extent especially the quick ones have managed to maintain their physical fitness which has reflected in their performances thus far.
“I agree that fitness levels have fallen from what it was some years ago but the important thing is that maintaining optimum levels of fitness is a prerequisite at this level of sport,” said Kapila Wijegunawardene, the chief selector of cricket. “We are all human and complacency it can creep into everyone’s life style. The main thing is to keep the boys focussed and give them benchmarks and monitor a level of fitness which each player needs to perform to his optimum.
“Normally in order to perform to your optimum levels of talent, fitness levels have to be a major factor in it. These boys are playing international cricket because they have the talent, fitness is something that you need to take personal pride in because the fitter you are naturally you are going to perform better.”
In order to overcome this malady that has affected the national team Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) were fortunate in hiring the services of Englishman Michael Main as trainer on a two-year period. Main, a qualified trainer was formerly head of strength and conditioning of English county Hampshire and has the experience of working with ECB in their young fast bowlers training program.
Having reviewed the fitness levels of each individual player in the national team Main has set out targets for them to achieve between the last series against India which ended on September 1 and at the start of the upcoming series against West Indies on October 8.
Wijegunawardene said that the drop in fitness levels could be due to several reasons. “Fitness is intertwined with your dietery habits, lifestyle etc. All these players take part in improving their fitness and maintaining it. That is where the trainer has brought in a lot more awareness, created the type of diet they should be having, type of quantity etc. There is a lot of information now being imparted to the players so that they are aware what is good and what is bad for them.
“We have reviewed the progress and we are very happy that everybody is making very good progress. We still have a few weeks to go in that process and most of the players are well on their way towards achieving those targets. We are seeing a dramatic improvement in fitness levels across all players which is a very good sign,” said Wijegunawardene.
How well the fitness regimes have been successful can only be gauged by the team’s performances on the field in the upcoming series against West Indies.