Whilst we have been here in India, one of my key roles has been to increase the player’s fitness levels and to measure the ability of the players to recover from session to session. In terms of fitness it tends to be a bit ad hoc, but the players are certainly starting to shape up after a month or so of work.
The players are now getting used to the routine of the sessions and what I am asking them to do in regards to lifting weights, speed, agility, aerobic endurance, flexibility, warm downs, session intensity and recovery. It is always a bit of a challenge keeping consistency in these programs particularly in the gym setting. Every gym we go to has a different focus – and it almost invariably is not on elite sports performance. These hotels are designed for the world businessman/traveller eager to work off their executive dinner with a 30 minute treadmill run whilst watching CNN on the eye level TV screen. I have tried to make most of the weight sessions utilising free weights so that we can set them up and work away independently. The other issue to consider here is that all of these players will be returning to Bangladesh in about a month and are going to have to follow set programs for strength, speed, agility and endurance. That means that a lot of what goes on here is as much about education as it is about training.
In terms of recovery, I am using a method known as rate of perceived exertion (RPE) which I learned quite a bit from Aaron Coutts (University of Technology, Sydney) over the past few years. I am linking the RPE to other measures such as recovery – both post session and throughout the day. I have been able to observe some interesting responses to different loads and stresses here and have been able to communicate this pretty effectively to the coach, Balwinder Singh Sandhu(or Balu as we call him).
Leading into the game against Kolkata you may recall from my previous blog, that we had a skills session followed by agility. All of this was fine – until the long bus trip home. It took the best part of three hours! On my RPE and recovery data the scales took a sharp turn for the worse. I am not suggesting that this is the reason that the Dhaka Warriors lost our third game to the Kolkata Tigers, but I do believe that it did not assist us. As such we are being able to formulate trends in the data now that can provide some guidance as to how the team and the individuals within the team, are faring with everything here from the training, accommodation, meals, travel and of course the stress that comes from playing and perhaps more so, from not playing.
The game against Kolkata was again very close. Dhaka went in to bat first and amassed 172 runs. It was going to be a real challenge for the Tigers to catch us. Unfortunately for the Warriors, Kolkata were up to the challenge – they scored 173 runs with just over an over to spare. The players are disappointed but the real hurdle for us now, is getting them up to contest our next game against Mumbai in just 2 days at the same competition venue.
One of the most frustrating things here is the food! No, not for me – but for the players. In terms of pre and post game nutrition it is clearly evident that it does not rate highly on the subcontinent. Imagine after a game of AFL serving the players butter chicken with pappadams and rice! Of course we have insisted on pasta – but they even stuff that up by drowning in milk and adding what appears to be handfuls of chilli and other unidentified treats.
I went to great lengths at the Kolkata game to ensure the cook that it is not the way he is preparing the food (although that’s a story in itself) but more what they are serving. “Just cook pasta in a tomato based sauce!” I could record it for them, seeing as I have to repeat so often. “I don’t mind if you lash out on the naan bread – just keep the butter off it!”. And now I have resorted to explaining healthy food choices to the players in terms of “If it glistens in the light, that is not the glow of good health. It is what we call in Australia, fat. F – A – T. Fat. And it is going straight to your gut!”
Slowly but surely we are making progress with the cook assuring me that at our next game he will “personally guarantee” that we will have all the pasta we need. I am not holding my breath.
The 26th (Sunday) sees an easy day for the team with just a team recovery session in the hotel grounds and a team meeting following the previous night’s game. I also do an extras session involving running, weights and circuits for those players whom did not play last night. The afternoon is then free for us and we decide to take up the offer to do some shopping in a Indo Emporium. I ended up buying a few things – which I have subsequently sent home to Australia.
In terms of Australian dollars, some things are very cheap here and are of excellent quality. Don’t worry about shopping hard – these people here sell hard. At one stage I had not less than 20 tribal rugs from Kashmir opened almost simultaneously at my feet in the Emporium. I had to extract myself with military precision. “No I am not interested” are obviously 5 very misunderstood words in Delhi!
Despite the fact that as I write this the Australian dollar has fallen to 0.62 US cents, if you have a good idea what you want, you will be able to find it at a great price. Things like the rugs were quite cheap really if you wanted it, along with fabrics, glassware and jewellery – including diamonds and gold.
By the time we got back to the hotel it is quite late and we decided it was best to just have our dinner in the hotel despite the inflated prices. All in all it was the end of a good and relaxing day.
Monday is game day – just 48 hours after our loss to Kolkata we are facing the Mumbai Champs. Everything is running quite smoothly now – I even expect the stuff ups to occur before they do! The players are pretty much spot on with hydration testing and the like and by the time we arrive at the ground around 5.45pm everything is under control. In fact, I have become so relaxed with the program now, that 2 of the 3 players that were not selected for this game did repeat efforts around the boundary, whilst the playing team completed their specific field skills warm up. This is both time efficient and provides those players not involved on the night, with a high quality fitness session.
The Warriors win the toss, and learning from the previous game and the inconsistency of the wicket (told you I was picking up the cricket jargon) elect to field first. The team is looking terrific and seemingly has the Champs on the ropes when, after 18 overs, they are 6 out for just 111 runs. Unfortunately, Mumbai have different ideas and belt 40 runs off the next 12 balls. At the break Mumbai are 151 runs.
After a break of 20 minutes, the Dhaka Warriors go into bat. By the 10th over there is little separating Mumbai and Dhaka. However, with another great innings by Alok Kapeli, the Warriors hit 155 runs with 9 balls and 6 wickets to spare. We are home for our second win of the series – and are still a chance to play off in the finals. After this win the ladder has the Warriors equal 5th with 3 games to go. We need to be top 4 for the finals play off.
By the time we get back to the hotel it is quite late. Coach Balu wants to have a chat about the team and what the next week or so are going to look like. By the time I head to my room it is after 1am. I have to get my packing done as I am up early for extra sessions with 3 players starting at 8.30am. The two players that ran the night before get it pretty easy with a low impact aerobic session (usually called riding a stationary bike). The other player, Farhad Reza, isn’t quite so lucky and I give him repeat effort runs in the gardens of the hotels – complete with stair bounding. After an hour or so, Reza has had enough. Just as well, for I only had an hour to have breakfast and check out. Today we fly out of Delhi for Chandigarh.
I am tired when we arrive. Despite the fact that it is only a 30 minute flight, by the time we get to Delhi airport, check in and then arrive at Chandigarh, about 4 hours have gone. We are once again staying at the Mountview Hotel. When we arrive I ask all of the players to meet me by the pool for an active recovery session. I do not have much time to unwind, because tonight I am going with the coach and Mitch Sturt (massage) to experience firsthand Indian Diwali.
Diwali is similar to Christmas in Australia. People give presents to each other and it is recognised as a time for families to get together. Tonight, Coach Balu is taking us to his sister’s house – about a 90 minute drive away. We leave the hotel about 5.30pm and by the time we arrive it is well and truly dark.
The Coach’s brother in law is a very senior police officer and as such, they live in a police compound. The neighbourhood is certainly getting into the Diwali spirit. It is also known as the festival of light, and fireworks are the preferred method of illumination. We stay for just over three hours and in that time, the fireworks never ceased. I feel like I am staying in some war torn country rather than a small town in the north of India! The size of some of the fireworks could level the MCG!
At one stage our host asks me if I would like to fire an PKK 30 Calibre pistol (the same gun I am told, James Bond ues). I thought he was joking – but in a matter of minutes I had a fully loaded pistol in my hands. Callum (my son) would have been in his element!! I fired a single shot into the night air to join the unending explosions and pyrotechnic displays all over the town.
After a beautiful home cooked Indian meal we set off on the 90 minute trip back to our hotel. Small candles by the side of the road glow for the entire trip and the fireworks continue to flash in the sky from every direction. When we arrive back at Mountview, we are greeted by an enormous explosion of fireworks – I didn’t even react. I was well past the’ being ready for sleep ‘stage.
On Wednesday morning I had two groups of players in the gym. Leroy (physio) took them first for a core session, followed by my weights and then a proprioception (body balance) session. The afternoon has us at a local girl’s school for a skill session. The setting is very nice and once the session gets underway I decided to go for a bit of a wander and see what an Indian school is like.
There were a lot of posters and signs up empowering the girls to strike a chord for equality. Slogans like “Equality is not requested, it is taken”, jump out at me as I walk along the well kept corridors. I was quite surprised to see then an enormous banner outside the girl’s gym, advertising interviews for airhostesses – “join us, and you can see the world”. I couldn’t help but laugh when I also saw a sign at the foot of the stairs – it read simply “Upstairs”. I am not sure why it was there actually, as you could only go upstairs!
Outside the facilities were very impressive, complete with cricket pitches (they run a cricket academy here for boys and girls), a basketball court and even a rock climbing tower.
When the training session was over, I took the players for a warm down and then it was back to the hotel. Tonight we are going to a local restaurant for dinner. The prospect of anything happening now is so remote; I hardly even remember to tell them to hold the ice in my drinks. Learn at your own peril!
Once back at the hotel, my night is interrupted by several fairly urgent trips to the loo. I am not too bad by morning, but it is a timely warning. It is just about the half way mark of my Indian odyssey and I have been going well in the food department. As of now, the score reads Quinn 90: Bacteria 5. Let’s hope they don’t have a strong finish in the second half!