Cricket fitness should be prime; not Yo-Yo and other tests: Sunil Gavaskar

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Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar has slammed the decision to make Yo-Yo and Dexa fitness tests mandatory for selection for emerging players, citing his own example to make his case. In his characteristic sardonic humour, he also questioned the absence of “bio-mechanists, body science experts as selectors”.

“Many years back, when this physical fitness fad had started, we had two former team-mates who had retired and now were the managers of the team for different series that season,” he writes in his Mid-Day column. Gavaskar also added that neither were particularly fit during their playing careers but insisted on mandatory long-distance running.

“Ever since I have been a schoolboy cricketer, I have suffered from a condition called shin splits where doing even a couple of laps of ground would make the muscles around shin seize up and make it painful to walk.” He says the managers insisted and the shins seized up. “I told them to drop me if they were going to pick the eleven based on who ran most… fitness is an individual thing and there is no such thing as one size fits all. Quick bowlers need different level than spinners, wicket-keepers need an even higher level, and batters perhaps the least. Cricket fitness should be prime consideration.”

It’s a point that perhaps the fittest Indian cricketer of all time Kapil Dev too has spoken about it in the past. “”Sunil Gavaskar may not have enjoyed running more than 15 minutes as a part of his fitness drill but he could bat for three days. Even the likes of Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly may or may not have cleared this version of the Yo-Yo test but they turned out to be some of the best players India has produced … Even football legend Diego Maradona wasn’t the fastest runner but whenever he had the ball, he was the fastest. Similarly, every cricketer has a different way of responding to fitness drill,” Kapil Dev had said in 2018.

Harbhajan Singh too had blasted it, then. “There is this new drama of Yo-Yo test, which for me does not exist in cricket. This is for footballers and hockey players because in this test, you can run forward once and then run back, which never happens in cricket. And because of this test a very in-form batsman like Ambati Rayudu could not make his place in the Indian team.”

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In 2018, The Indian Express had spoken to the inventor of Yo-Yo Test, the Danish sports scientist Dr Jens Bangsbo. He had then said that the test is used to optimise training and improve endurance. However, the man who has been the assistant coach at Juventus FC and the Denmark national side had a word of caution for those who use this test as a selection criteria.

“You have to be careful about using this as the sole test for selection. You have to be always careful in using it as a selection criteria in sports like cricket. It’s not bad, though, to have a lower level (16.1 is lower spectrum) as everybody needs to have a minimum level of fitness. But whether you should use this for selection criteria is up to the federations but I would say you have to be careful; as there are other qualities that one seeks in a sportsman,” Bangsbo had told this newspaper. “The test is a tool to measure the individual’s capacity. What is more important is to use this as a tool to measure and get better. This is a useful tool to find out how we train and how to improve the training to get the players fitter. This is how it is used by football clubs and that’s the constructive way.”


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