From Kakul to Hampshire: Will our team finally reap the benefits of the army boot camp?
The Pakistan Army and the game of cricket have one thing in common; both unite the country but while the soldiers are ‘revered’ from Karachi to Khyber our cricketers have in recent years brought the country together by their comical ineptness which makes us scoff at them in unison.
Of late, the cricketers have had their fame replaced by infamy as they continue to hog the headlines mostly for the bad and ugly causing widespread outrage.
The flak is not restricted to our cricketers alone; the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is easily the most maligned sporting body in the country but in a rare moment of tactical shrewdness that would even make the army generals proud, the PCB think-tank decided to send the players for a fortnight long boot camp to Kakul’s Military Academy.
The move was inspired by the most insipid display at an ICC WorldT20 tournament by Pakistan, a downfall so embarrassing that the captain Shahid Afridi was left teary eyed at the end of each of the three defeats to India, New Zealand and Australia.
During the WorldT20, Pakistan fielders resembled a team of super veterans — cricketers who play 60 plus cricket. In the game against New Zealand the fielders gifted 18 additional runs to the Black Caps, allowing opposing batsmen to turn ones into twos and twos into threes, when the same fielders took their turn to bat they ran runs so gingerly that threes were converted in twos and twos into ones!
The boot camp lasted 12 days, the grapevine is that from Misbahul Haq to Sami Aslam all the players were treated equally and forced to do army specific drills in three sessions of varying lengths every day.
The players were divided into three groups Pak one, Pak two and Pak three, by the time the camp reached the last three days a Pak four was formed for the injured party!
Most of the players found the demands of the camp taxing to say the least, only the ones in the habit of putting their bodies on the line returned unscathed.
But considering the lackadaisical attitude of the most sought after sportsmen in the country, the ragghra (strain) was very much the need of the hour.
Other than a handful of fit cricketers, the Pakistan teams have carried the burden of unfit and overweight bodies that are a misfit for the rapidly evolving demands of modern cricket.
The army trainers didn’t keep a check on the diet of the players but if the players are indeed serious about the gains that they made in Kakul they would need to combine their fitness regimes with a constant check on their diet.
Diet is another historically ignored aspect; most of the players are foodies with a big appetite for greasy food and red meat, the trainers gave them allowance to fill their bellies with the food of their choice at Kakul but one hopes that next time a camp is devised it also teaches the players the art of reigning in their culinary cravings.
Perhaps then we will shout in unison,
“Thank you, Raheel Sharif!”
Gains of the skills camp
On the heels of the boot camp, the PCB turned focus from strength to skill; a seven day training camp sans coach Mickey Arthur followed the Kakul rigours. The curator at the Gaddafi Stadium was asked to dish out green pitches in the searing Lahore heat in an attempt to ‘replicate the conditions in England.’ Of course the weather was as ‘un-English’ as possible but the ground staff tried their best to help batsmen comply with the demands of cricket at the home of cricket.
After the skills camp, the players spend some 20 days preparing for the opening Test of the series— Lord’s July 14th — Arthur would supervise the training session in Hampshire besides strategising with the players for combat against James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Moeen Ali, Alastair Cook and company.
From Kakul to Hampshire, the fear of a burnout would surely seed some thoughts of doubt in the minds of Arthur and Misbahul Haq. In the days ahead the think-tank will have to balance the act out and ensure that the players aren’t mentally and physically exhausted even before the commencement of the battle.
But the battle should be gripping, especially if the players can put to rest the demons of 2010 by exerting their supremacy in matters pertaining to both brawn and brain.
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