No sooner are we over the last game and all of the focus has shifted onto game 2 – The Warriors versus Hyderabad Heroes. This is not only the home team, but also last years overall winners. They have not lost a game in their past 9 – so this is undoubtedly going to be a real test for the boys from Dhaka.
The team does a morning training session – pretty much as per last week with warm up, nets, fielding and individual needs. The afternoon is pretty free and I take the opportunity to have a bit of a look around Hyderabad.
The city of Hyderabad has a population of around 6 million, and is known as the City of Pearls. They tell me that pearls are very cheap here but unfortunately Natlee (my wife) doesn’t like pearls much, so they will just have to stay here! Lucky it isn’t known as the City of 3 carat diamonds! Hyderabad is the home of India’s software industry and some refer to the city as “Cyberabad”. Historically it has strong origins with Islam and this is evident wherever you go in the city. There are some really beautiful buildings throughout.
The streets are just a mass of people. The government could save a fortune here if they stopped painting lanes on the road. I am not sure why they bother and I am quite sure that anyone with a license here in India isn’t sure about it either. Today I saw this car just come out from behind another into a line of oncoming traffic. Suddenly 2 lanes became three, no one slows down, horns blast, and the chaos continues unabated. It is like this every time I step out. When you cross the street, you not so much as move across the road but time your gaps in the traffic to perfection. This is different from waiting for the traffic to cease so you can move across safely. The traffic never ceases. The amazing thing is I am yet to see a car crash and I have not been able to even see a car with “bingle damage”. The Indian’s have got near misses down to a state of art!
The day of our game against Hyderabad Heroes arrives. We have tweaked the program slightly to allow the players to sleep in a bit. I get the two players who are not playing up early to do a gym session. Then the rest of the group do an activation session which consists of walking, stretching, shoulder work and more stretching. The atmosphere is very good and the players are confident of a good performance in tonight’s game.
The playing group then have a meeting to discuss strategy and tactics for the game. I am back to my room to finish analysing the urine samples (for hydration) and advise any players before midday of any extra fluid that they should take on board. The rest of the day consists of meals, strapping, mobilisation and final preparation.
It is only our second game but already we have our systems down pretty well. We arrive and arrange food to get rid of fried/pastry/oily food and replace with pasta and rice and bread. We need to ensure that fluids are readily available. The warm up goes without a hitch. The Dhaka Warriors are ready for the big test!
The night starts promisingly when we win the toss. Of course, we elect to bat. And then, seemingly, disaster strikes. Our opening batsmen is bowled out first ball. It is 1 for 0. Within minutes, another batsman goes and we are 2 for 6 at the end of the first over. This is not looking good at all.
I am sitting next to the ground with the physio, massage therapist, coach, manager and the players. My key role is to have the players ready when they are called on to bat. Within 8 minutes I have had 4 batsmen ready! At this rate, it is going to be a very early night. The crowd (local) is very vocal and you can sense the Hyderabad Heroes lifting with the momentum as they can sense an easy victory.
And then, we scored 11, 19 , 9 and 6 off the next 4 overs. We were settling. One of the batsmen, Alok is looking especially comfortable. At the 10 over mark we are 5 for 68. But the Dhaka Warriors are playing with confidence. I start to think that we might win this….then again, the team we are playing have not been beaten in the past 9 outings.
By the 15th over we are 5 for 124 and Alok Kapali is still in there heading for 100 runs. Bearing in mind that our total score in the last game was 142, we move past this mark at the 17th over and end our 20 overs with 168 – a very respectable score in this type of cricket.
Hyderabad come into bat after a 30 minutes break. Within 5 overs they are 2 for 53 runs – 12 runs ahead of us at the same stage. This blows out to 21 runs ahead by the 11th over. Then the lead begins to shrink. 21 becomes 14 ahead. Then 9 ahead. And suddenly, the Warriors are in the lead! At the 15th over, the Dhaka team is 3 runs up. This increases to 5, then 8, then 10 and by the 19th over 12 runs. Hyderabad need 12 runs off six balls. They hit a six!!! They need 6 runs off 5 balls. They hit a 4. They need 2 runs off 3 balls. And then they hit a 4…… Hyderabad win the game with 2 balls left to bowl.
The players were very disappointed. Alok is presented with a cheque for about $10,000 US and a motor bike for being named man of the match. Whilst great for him, the players rue the missed opportunity. Still, this is one of, if not the, best team in the competition. Time will tell, but this match may well be a turning point for the team.
We do our stretching. Eat a recovery meal. And then it is back to the hotel.
I am up at 8am the next day to do a session with the players who did not actually play last night. They cop a circuit with repeated running, stairs and circuits. Next up is a couple of players looking to do some extras. I have them running in the pool. By 10am, all of the players are with me by the pool stretching prior to our water recovery. The spirits have improved since last night.
I am very impressed with the coach, Balwinder Singh Sandhu. His manner of dealing with the players in this instance is very good. He reminds me of Kevin Sheedyin that he is a very experienced coach and understands that losing is a part of the process. That is not to suggest that he accepts it. But he can move the players to understand and learn from the setback rather than collapse under the pressure that sometimes comes from not winning.
The rest of the day is free and I end up out and about with Leroy Lobo (physiotherapist) and Mitch Sturt(massage) for lunch and a bit of a wander around the shopping area of Hyderabad.
Friday morning has the team on the ground for training. We have decided to complete our testing for the players today. It consists of 6x40m with 30 seconds recovery in between to assess their ability to repeat speed under fatigue. All tests have to be completed and submitted with a report to the Indian Cricket League (ICL) before the end of the tournament. By the end of the day I have the results finalised and printed off.
The afternoon has 3 separate groups for me in the gym. I take the players through their running test results and explain the significance of the times, graphs and standards and where they could improve. The players are then required to complete several strength tests (push ups, chin ups, crunches, etc) before we start our strength session.
The players have done some strength training but the variety of technical ability is a bit of a worry. Also, they seem to lack an ability to work harder by lifting more. If the bar has 40kg on it, that is what they lift. If it has 20kg then that will do. I have to constantly challenge them in the gym. Whilst they do work hard, it seems that there is always a bit more that they can give.
And so our time in Hyderabad has ended – for now. We are back here again towards the end of the competition. Tomorrow is an 8am flight to Ahmedabad. By all reports, it is not going to be the comforts to which I have become accustomed here in Hyderabad.
Still the challenge of keeping the players on task remains. I sense that a win is not that far away and I know that this is just what these players need. A bit of reward and recognition for what they are doing and how far they have come in a relatively short period of time.
I am confident that a win is not that far away and I think we will look back on the game against Hyderabad Heroes as the game we needed. It has galvanised this group – players, coaches and support staff. And the best part of it all, is that it is great fun to be a part of it!