We all went to the ICL launch function the night before last. It was held in a very impressive hotel, the Kakatiya Hyderabad and was your typical night of food and speeches. The Dhaka Warriors sat at two tables and it was a good opportunity to just relax. The night was hosted by Tony Greig and all of the speeches showed the optimism and excitement that surrounds the Indian Cricket League (ICL). One comment that caught my attention was the expectation of 125 million viewers for a game of ICL. I guess when an event is staged in a country of more than 1.5 billion people, everything becomes relevant to that.
We were back in our hotel before 11pm. I ended up doing a fair bit of work getting ready for our first game this Sunday. Most of the things I am looking at now relate to the logistics of fitness and performance on game day: lead up nutrition; hydration; medical treatments (massage etc); recovery sessions; player loads before and during the game on Sunday; time lines for the day such as departure, meal time, warm up time and so on. All of these things take some preparation and there are more than a few challenges trying to get some things done in India…..
The Coach (Balwinder Singh Sandhu) and the players, are all keen to get in as much practice as possible before the game. As of Friday, our training loads and player responses are indicating that the whole group is at its best for the week. My only concern here is that we overdo the session the day before the game. Our time slot for training is 12pm. We leave the hotel at 11.30am and arrive at the venue – also the venue for our game on Sunday. It is a good opportunity for the players and staff to familiarise themselves with the ground. The venue is abuzz with preparations for the opening ceremony and the game. As such, our training takes place amidst music tests – on perhaps the most impressive sound system I have ever heard – and construction of props and the like around the ground. People are everywhere and all seem to have a job to get the “show on the road”. It appears that it is like any function or presentation – you only have say 6 hours left to prepare and you feel like you need 6 days.
At one part of the ground, two women are sitting down with large baskets. They are raking their hands through the recently cut grass and picking up cuttings as they go. We were at the ground for about two hours and they never stopped raking, filling and emptying their baskets.
The Warriors session consisted of a warm up, a short game of soccer, batting, fielding and nets work. I am not sure what the actual temperature was but I would suggest that it was somewhere near 40 degrees. Humidity was very high. Whilst the Australian based fitness and medical staff were feeling the heat, the players seemed oblivious to the climate. The session went for about 90 minutes all up. We did a bit of stretching at the ground and then headed for the bus.
As we were leaving the ground, we learned that our equipment supply had been delivered to us. It consisted of two massage tables and one very large bag of various equipment. Once outside of the ground with all of this new gear, our bus arrived. Now the team numbers 14 players and 5 staff. The bus was a twenty seater. No problem you would think. But when you put in everyone’s bag and all of this extra gear it was quite a crowded return to the hotel. The front of the bus was absolutely chockers as we headed off from training back to our base hotel here in Hyderabad.
Once at the hotel, I had the players come to the pool for a recovery session. They are already getting in a routine of my expectations and the structure of this recovery session. After about 15 minutes, I divided the players into two groups. We grabbed a rope and divided the pool and played a game of “make up the rules as you go water polo”. Like any athlete, the boys were very competitive and ended up playing two games of water polo – or from my perspective, an extra 20 minutes of moving, stretching and recovery work in the pool.
We didn’t have too much down time before it was back in the bus and back to the ground for the ICL Opening Ceremony and the competitions inaugural game between Hyderabad Heroes and Lahore Badshahs. The Opening Ceremony was quite impressive and energetic. Perhaps the highlight of the night for me was meeting one of sports true gentlemen, Kapil Dev. He is also the President of the ICL.
After the Opening Ceremony, we headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow is the big game for us – Dhaka Warriors versus Chennai Superstars. As I leave the ground, I am most concerned about the fact that we have been unable to do any real hydration testing since we have been here. All week I have been asking for sample jars or even disposable cups for urine samples. How a hydration test works is that you have the player give a small sample of urine in a cup. A few drops of this is placed on a device called a refractometer. This device than gives you a reading indicating the players state of hydration – anything below 1.020 is acceptable. Anything above1.021 indicates varying degrees of dehydration. The greater an inividuals state of dehydration, the greater is the impact on that players performance. Whilst we have been diligent in ensuring that the players are drinking fluids at every opportunity, I cannot be sure as to what their true hydration state is.
Each time I have asked for specimen jars or cups I am told that it will not be a problem. Well it might not be a problem but it has not been getting done. Leroy Lobo (team physio) and myself approached several of the teams at the Opening Ceremony. Basically we were told that if you don’t bring stuff like that with you from Australia, you will not get it in India. Most of the teams don’t even worry about doing it as it is all too hard.
The reality is that I believe that we need this. After all, I only want about 500 specimen jars for the duration of this trip!! How hard can it be?
On retuning to the hotel, I asked Leroy if he would give me a hand trying to find some sample jars. It’s crunch time and with a game tomorrow, I really want to tick that box that we are doing everything that we can going into this game. So off we go at about 9.30pm in search of what we are told, are mythical specimen jars.
After walking along a busy road with intermittent shops for the best part of 20 minutes, we are told that a chemist is just around the corner. Either we are blind or the guy giving the directions is still laughing – we walked on for another 10 minutes and decided to get some assistance in the form of an autorickshaw. These little things seat two passengers and can go just about anywhere (they are pretty much like the Tuk Tuk’s in Bangkok). After negotiating the fee with a less than enthusiastic driver we are off bumping down this busy road amongst cars, buses, bikes, rickshaws and pedestrians.
After a couple of kilometers, I notice a “type of chemist” on the side of the road. I learned that if you want the right answer, you have to ask the right question. After my babbling on about jars and samples and bottles with lids and urine/blood/saliva tests and assessments, the guy behind the counter just looked at me and said he sold medicine, not jars. I asked him where I could get a specimen jar at 10pm. He pointed across the road and suggested we try the diagnostic centre.
Back into the autorickshaw with our “happy to be doing this job” driver and off we go. The across the road takes us over four lanes of busy roads and then a sharp left down a side street. This then meandered left, then right, a hard left and then straight and then a sort of left and another hard right…….across the road!
I was glad that Leroy was in this buggy with me. God knows where I was. I am in some residential area of the city. Lighting is not a priority here and we have got absolutely no idea where we are or what’s more, where we are going. Suddenly “happy chappy” stops the auto rickshaw and grunts, pointing at a building with a small blue and white sign – “Diagnostic Centre”. It is closed.
Not to be dissuaded, we notice a Hindu Temple next door with several people talking outside. We ask them if they know of any other diagnostic centres in Hyderabad. They suggest a hospital “down the road”.
I have decided to up the payment to the driver. I tell him that I will give him an extra 30 rupees if he takes us to this hospital down the road (30 rupees is about 80 cents – which I am adding to the exorbitant $1.85 that we have already agreed upon!). The driver gets a whole new lease of life, and we are off!
Sure enough, there is a hospital and diagnostic centre just 5 minutes away. In we go to ask for our specimen jars. We are told to wait. Eventually, a confused staff member asks us what it is we want. We try to explain as best we can and he suggests that they can give us 2 specimen jars. “But I need more than that – and I need them tonight” I say. “How many do you need?” he asks us. “Well, 14 for tonight and about 400 overall!”
“400!. Sorry we can’t help you. I can only give you 2” says the guy on duty.
Leroy then starts to up the ante. “We will buy them from you”.
“No. I do not have any to give you at all”
And then it dawned on Leroy, the magic of those three letters…..”We are medical staff with the ICL team, the Dhaka Warriors. We need the jars for the players…” he explained.
“Oh. You are with the cricket… You are with the ICL?”
“We could get you a signed shirt…..” says Leroy.
“OK. You can have 15”
I couldn’t believe it. The impossible had materialised with the mention of cricket and the ICL. Next thing you know, the department boss is out with us too. He is giving us a detailed map and instructions of where we can buy the jars – as many as we will need. We are like long lost friends.
All I know is that I have got 15 – one for luck – specimen jars in a bag. We’ve found what we needed and can provide the players with tangible action rather than “we intend to test…..”
Both Leroy and I are on a bit of a high as “happy chappy” takes us back to our hotel. I am probably a bit too elated as I gave the driver a further 50 cent bonus for his efforts. He is as happy as we are as he actually smiled as he drove away from the hotel!
I spend the next 30 minutes labelling the jars and distributing them to the closed doors of the players’ rooms. Who would have thought that the prospect of a small jar of urine could bring so much happiness!