Rahul Dravid, head of cricket at the National Cricket Academy, talks to TOI on the challenges of training players during lockdown and that coaches have been forced to become creative to develop programs.
The India under-19 team and India A had a busy season. Has the NCA devised any program for them during this lockdown period?
There are various measures in place to support cricketers. For starters, our Strength and Conditioning experts (S&Cs) and the physios are in constant touch with them, monitoring their programs and loads. Since some of them are recuperating from injuries, they require a different level of attention. Even with the training programs for example, it isn’t quite possible for all the guys to go for a run. Some have access to gyms but most don’t, so the S&Cs have had to become creative and provide the athletes the best possible solutions in such times, keeping in mind that they need to at least maintain current strength and conditioning levels if not become better.
How is the fitness of the players being monitored?
Well, the training is highly different for different individuals during this time and is largely based on what is available and how we can use it best. So, we have to be flexible in our approach. Metrics that we use in a normal situation include weight lifted, distance ran, and exertion levels. These get uploaded on our Athlete Management System (AMS) where we can track the athletes.
However, during these unique times, our S&Cs have had to be more flexible and the metrics range from “number of sessions” done for someone with basic home facilities to our usual metrics for someone who has access to in house gyms. All the contracted players are being offered support online and (are being) checked regularly to ensure that they are safe and taking good care of themselves. This includes their injury management and injury prevention programmes as well as training programmes from our Physiotherapy and S&C Department. There is a regular communication among NCA staff and these players.
Is there any fitness audit of the last season in terms of injury management?
Ashish (Kaushik, NCA physio) and his team had workshops with all the domestic teams’ physios during the Vijay Hazare (Trophy) earlier in the season. After that, they have gone about collecting medical and injury-related data of a lot of state cricketers. I believe that the communication pipeline that has been set up, will allow us to track the players better and manage their injuries better in future. Additionally, every injury is reviewed from a point of view of protocols followed, timelines met in terms of recovery and relapse if any. We are aware that we are in such a competitive environment now that injuries will be put through the scanner, therefore having good processes is key and I believe we have been working well towards that. Also, the more data we can collect with regards to our men and women cricketers, the better position we will be in to set standards and protocols all the way down to the First Class and junior teams. We were hoping to continue this in our camps this summer.
Additionally, we have identified that a lot of the injuries can stem from medical deficiencies or poor training practices. One of the key reasons to conduct the S&C workshop therefore was to ensure good practices are taught and standardised. Having good, knowledgeable S&Cs in the ecosystem will ensure athletes are fitter right from a young age and in turn ensure there are less injuries when they reach the top level.
As a director of the NCA, how are you going to plan for the next season in the present environment?
I think it is best to wait and watch at this time. There are much larger things at play currently and the future is uncertain because of the crisis. All our camps for the summer, which is a busy time for NCA, have had to be put on hold. The monsoon which arrives in most parts of India from June will add to the challenges. We do have a few contingency plans in place but then again, we will only be able to dive deeper into any of those plans once the situation gets better and everyone is safe. Safety is the priority for everyone right now.
Once things become more clearer, we will be able to react. I guess that’s true of all sport in the world.
The NCA has appointed batting, bowling coaches. What is their role during the lockdown?
Firstly, I think it is great to have a group of highly experienced and qualified coaches working together at the NCA. It just allows us to broaden our horizons and provide more support to all the athletes that we are involved with. We have had coaches who have been working with the U-19 and India A and women’s teams, also providing support to athletes that come to the NCA for short upskilling stints or even some minor corrections/ adjustments during rehab. We also have other coaches who work along with our ‘Head Education,’ Sujith (Somasundar) to develop and deliver coaching courses across the country. We had also identified some experienced Level 3 coaches as faculty, who could deliver our courses and they also went through some training. The team will start the courses once the lockdown ends.
Any specific plans for the NCA for the next season? The president of the BCCI (Sourav Ganguly) had said that the NCA work on the new plot will start. What’s the plan on the new NCA?
Work had begun with respect to the new NCA and processes were being put into place to kickstart the work. However, everything is on hold now.