Ankit Kaliyar, a strength and conditioning coach with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and a former state-level cricketer, credits Virat Kohli for instilling immense confidence within the Indian cricket team.
Having experienced a stint in state-level cricket and being part of the Ranji Trophy until injuries intervened, Ankit’s aspiration to be linked with Indian cricket led him to pursue a career in ‘strength and conditioning’.
Ankit, who has been associated with the Ranji Trophy teams and worked closely with the star players like Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Mohit Sharma, and many more, shared insights on Virat’s fitness, the significance of the Yo-Yo Test, Shubman Gill emulating Virat’s footsteps, and much more in an exclusive interview with TimesofIndia.com. Excerpts:
Which athletes have you worked with and trained?
I handled a lot of professional athletes who represent India. I have worked with the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand, Delhi, and UPCA. A lot of domestic cricketers, national players, and cricketers who are playing in the IPL also. I train them. I have worked closely with Manan Vohra, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Mohit Sharma, and many more.
Which current member of the Indian cricket team stands out as the most physically fit and why?
Virat Kohli is the fittest player in the Indian team and the world. The reason behind that is that he’s following a strict schedule. Whether he’s playing or not, he follows or takes care of his nutrition, training, supplementation, and conditioning part really well. He is very religious about his regime and routine. He’s the fittest athlete in India and throughout the world.
Virat Kohli (TOI Photo)
How do you prepare a schedule for a player?
Every individual has a defined schedule. If I have to make a plan for a fast bowler, I have to understand his overall journey like his offseason and on-season training and how he prepares himself. Then I work on channelising and managing his workload. It’s all about science. I have to understand what actually I have to give him in terms of training. I need to work and decide what is beneficial for him. Similarly, different regimes and plans for a batsman, fielder, and keeper. I just aim to give the players the best output. So, every individual player has their training module.
I have to understand their lifestyle and routine. Like how they can work throughout the day, how many hours they can for the skills part, and how much time they will have on the ground for conditioning or in the gym for a strength part. So, I have to assess all those things. I have to take their endurance test, stamina test, strength test, then mobility, agility test, and balancing test. After analysing all those things, I have to assign a program.
How does the Yo-Yo test work?
The Yo-Yo test is basically the most important part for an athlete, especially these days. It’s an endurance test. In cricket, a fielder has very little time. For example, when a batsman hits a shot through covers, the fielder has to chase the ball and then he collects and throws the ball back. The less time he takes in chasing the ball, the less the batsman will score. So, it’s a short interval time reaction. So, that’s when endurance comes into the role.
This will apply to the batsman too, like how many runs he can collect between the wickets before the fielder chases the ball, collects, and throws it back. That’s when we get to know whether the player’s endurance is up to the mark or not.
There are certain parameters. 17 and above is the passing score in India. If you score 17 and above then you can pass. So, Yo-Yo is an endurance test where you get to know whether a player is fit to be a part of our team or not.
Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill (AFP Photo)
Why is Virat Kohli so consistent in passing the Yo-Yo Test?
Virat is a leading example when it comes to fitness. He has created a culture of fitness in the team. When your top player is so fit, then you become an example for others. He injects confidence in others. When he was the captain, he ensured everyone remained fit. Fitness was his top parameter in the team. He has created that culture and discipline in the team. That atmosphere was created by Virat bhai and it’s a commendable thing. He is the reason why all the Indian players are so fit.
Do you think Shubman Gill is following Virat Kohli’s footsteps in terms of fitness?
Shubman is very fit. Not just fit, he is a very skillful player. There is no doubt that Shubman is inspired by Virat bhai. Be it batting, fitness, or skill, Shubman is following Virat bhai. I am sure Shubman will be doing well for the country in the coming years.
How can a cricketer pass the Yo-Yo Test?
Yo-Yo test is not something in which a player gets up, goes to the ground, participates, and clears it. No. Not. It needs at least five to six months of practice. When you are doing regular training for five or six months, then only you can clear the Yo-Yo test. It is not easy at all. It is about consistency. There is a lot of training involved in this in terms of stamina, exercise, fielding drills, etc. A lot of things are mapped and monitored by coaches. If a player fails it, we have to work on him by analysing him and preparing a program for him. The best coach is the one who can understand the anatomy of a player.
India captain Rohit Sharma during a practice session. (AFP Photo)
If a player fails a Yo-Yo test, does that mean he is unfit?
No. Not at all. If a player hasn’t passed the Yo-Yo test, this doesn’t tag him as an unfit player. A player plays cricket throughout the year. Sometimes, he gets injured, has niggle, his back is stiff, has muscles not working properly, spasms or any health issues, etc. I have to analyse the exact issue and then prepare a program and module for him. Then it is my job to take things and help the player recover fast and pass the test again.
What about Rohit Sharma‘s fitness?
Rohit Sharma is a fit player. He has good fitness. He looks a bit bulky but he always passes the Yo-Yo test. He is as fit as Virat Kohli. He looks like he is bulky but we have seen him on the field. His agility and mobility is amazing. He is among the fittest cricketers.
There was a time when players like Inzamam Ul Haq, who was a bit bulky, used to play and went on to become a legend. Do you think fitness was not a priority in the 90s or 2000s?
We have a Yo-Yo test now. But there was a Beep test in those times. It was a kind of Yo-Yo test but the scores were not so high. Today, the cricket or the game is so fast. If you look back, 10-15 years back, cricket was not that fast in comparison to today’s. We have a lot of leagues today, and one-day matches and calendars have become so busy for cricketers.
So, fitness has become the top priority for every cricketer. If you are fit, you will play for a long time and regularly. If not, then your career will be cut short.
BCCI ends speculations, retains Rahul Dravid as India’s head coach alongside support staff
Fitness was not the priority in comparison to today’s cricket. A cricketer used to play 25, 30, or 40 matches in a year. These days a cricketer plays more than 100 matches in a year. So, fitness has become the top priority in today’s cricket. Fitness will help you manage your workload in the busy schedule and play all three formats.
Some players are a bit bulky but they have amazing agility and mobility. They are born like that. But those players are exceptions. They are 1 percent of 100 percent. These 99 percent have to work hard, train hard, and maintain fitness.