Friday, 24 April 2015

Column 11, 2015 – Fit for purpose

Printed in The Cricket Paper, issue 114, Friday April 24, 2015.
[Full text below]

There was a time, really not very long ago, when professional cricketers neither pounded treadmills nor pumped iron.

They got to be professional cricketers because they were really good at cricket, and if they wanted to subsist on three bacon sandwiches and 40 Marlboro Lights a day, it was nobody’s business but theirs.

The stars of the past, from the prominent tobacco endorsements of the Compton era, through the legendary partying credentials of Botham’s, saw the projection of a healthy lifestyle as something for the less gifted to worry about.

The modern cricketer is not just fit, he is conditioned, strong, and has a diet containing lots of protein, quinoa and kale, not many chips and very few kebabs.

Have you seen Chris Tremlet up close? He’s a seriously imposing figure. He may look like he’s got one of those fancy-dress superman costumes with the foam pecs and six pack, but just like his doppelganger Arnold Schwarzenegger, that stuff is actually there. The irony is that those cartoon biceps appear if anything to have slowed down his bowling.

The gym time has not hindered Chris Gayle though, who with his shirt off also looks like a Venice Beach workout freak, but those muscles are very much in evidence as he wields that 3lb railway sleeper to such devastating effect.

Samit Patel, a cricketer of great talent and promise, is probably the most high profile to have had his stop-start international career derailed for carrying a few extra pounds rather than bench pressing them. Which, if you ignore the talent and promise and the international career, is something most of us can relate to.

We had our first game at the weekend in crisp spring sunshine, and I made an overdue 50. The fluffy green outfield was slow, and well over half of it came in singles.

There are 80 lots of 22 yards in a mile, and along with all the non-striker ones and twos, I reckon I probably got there – which, not coincidentally, is almost exactly a mile more than I’ve run since September. It wasn’t warm, but by halfway through I was sweating like a dodgy bookie being interviewed by the Anti Corruption Unit. In the forties, my legs took on the qualities of under-inflated balloons.

Sat here at my desk now, I’m fine. But only because I’m not moving. I just got up to make coffee, and by the time I got back with it, it was cold. Everything aches.

Since the retirement of Inzamam-ul-Haq, the international game has sadly lacked the kind of insouciant stylist who appears motivated to deal chiefly in boundaries through a deep antipathy for the very idea of running.

Some would say, and I would be one of them, that obsessional fitness fascism has robbed the modern game of its more colourful, less identikit characters. But it does have its advantages.

Just as soon as I can walk properly again, I’m off for a run.

- ends 493 words -

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