R Sridhar, India's fielding coach, believes players can return to peak fitness "within four to six weeks of resuming training" post the forced break due to Covid-19. Presently, the BCCI is still looking at the feasibility of starting training camps for the national players even as the Indian government has slowly relaxed lockdown norms.
"Fast bowler needs around six weeks, batsmen might take a bit less time," Sridhar told PTI. "Once we get a date [on start of national camp] from the BCCI and approved by the government of India, we can start working backwards (starting from scratch). The challenge is to proceed in right phases, as players can get excited when they play after 14 or 15 weeks. It is pertinent that we move in right manner forward. Don't want to look too much ahead."
Sridhar, who has been part of India's support staff since 2014 (barring a short period in between, when Abhay Sharma was fielding coach), stressed on the need to manage workloads well and was wary of pushing the players too hard early. Currently, training for the country's top cricketers has been restricted to gym sessions and personalised training charts prepared by Nick Webb, the trainer.
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"Initially, we have to give them progressive workload," Sridhar said. "You can't have a sudden spike in workload which could lead to injuries. First phase, it will be 'low volume-low intensity', followed by 'moderate volume-low intensity', 'high volume-moderate intensity' and then starts 'high volume-high intensity' training. This is how we will go.
"[To begin with] may be the fast bowlers will bowl two overs from half or quarter run-up. The deliveries will be bowled at 20 or 30% intensity. For a fielder, it will be at the maximum, six throws over 10 metres or six throws over 20 metres at 40-50% intensity. For a batsman, it will start with five to six minutes of batting against moderate pace bowling. For catchers, it will start with semi-soft balls, intensity will be slow and volumes will be less. Then we can slowly pick it up as we cross one phase after another.
"We can't do same training every day as we start with low volume-low intensity training," he said. "Once we get to the fourth week when high volume-high intensity training starts, the hands will get used to hard balls coming at 140km an hour, 130km an hour, that's when match-training will start. The sharpest minds will take six weeks to get into Test match mode."
In his second stint with the Indian team, after the Champions Trophy in 2017, Sridhar has helped set up a process to record each ball at a fielding session and cumulative scoring for each player is arrived at through a rating and points systems. Catches are categorised into grade one, two and three, each having a set number of points. Such innovations have helped improve the overall approach to fielding and catching. Now, with players needing to ease themselves back after a long period of inactivity, Sridhar is working on few other innovative ideas to help make the transition smooth.
"I am still working on it," he said. "There are few things on my mind and when we go back and start the camp, basically my mind is working on how to plan the sessions once we get back. In a phased manner, we will incorporate a lot of drills, external props would be used to increase their reflexes, reaction drills, deviation methods, all those things, I have a few things and once the camp starts, it will be there for everyone to see. We will be more realistic as to what elite level cricketers need, we will make innovations that are pertinent to our plans."