The way Afghanistan is playing their ODI cricket, it can be said that the team has achieved a lot in less time. In the Asia Cup too, they have showed world-class performance by defeating strong teams like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Although Afghanistan’s bowling is one of their biggest strength, there is one more secret to their achievements in cricket till now, and that is ‘fitness’.
“Being professional players, we have to be ready for the next game, no matter the recovery period — 16 hours, or 10 hours, or 12 hours. We can play right now as well. We improved our fitness over the last five-six months. Sixteen hours more than enough for us to recover,” Afghan bowler Rashid Khan said after bagging man of the player award in match against Bangladesh.
Rashid can be surely called one of the fittest players in Afghan team, and he considers Virat Kohli as his fitness mentor. After all, Virat Kohli is the poster boy of fitness in Indian cricket. “All the players have their idols. They follow them. Maybe, Rashid’s fitness process follows Virat’s, because Virat is a very fit cricketer. Rashid knows that. And I think it helps a lot (the trickle-down effect); when you come back (from the T20 leagues) and doing the hard work, and your team mates are watching you. So it really, directly influences the others to follow you,” Afghanistan team manager said to The Indian Express.
Rashid has gained a lot from his stint in IPL. From Rashid, the craze of fitness also passed on to other players who are inspired watching the enthusiasm and energy Rashid shows on the field. And fitness has led to more and more success for the Afghanistan team. In the past six months, Afghanistan is on a ladder of achievements in ODI and T20 cricket. Before Asia Cup 2018, they defeated Zimbabwe 4-1 in ODIs in UAE. Then qualified for ICC World Cup 2019 by defeating West Indies in the final. They also defeated Ireland in a bilateral series 2-1, and also outclassed Bangladesh 3-0 in T-20I series in India.
The team has progressed a lot in the area of fitness. The team management is also committed towards making yoyo test mandatory for players. “Fazal Azeem and Jason Douglas, our physio and strength and conditioning coach respectively, are working very hard on the team’s fitness, and over the last six months our fitness indeed has improved a lot,” the team manager said. “Now, the minimum requirement for yoyo test has been raised to 17.3. But some guys, they are still improving. One or two guys we have who are less than 17.3, but they are improving and will touch the mark before the World Cup,” Hamkar said, adding: “Some players have crossed 18.”
Moreover, the management also stresses on fitness camps and other fitness related activities for players during the off-season. “In free season, we organise fitness camps – one month, two months fitness camps. Players work on their fitness – gym sessions, swimming etc. – regularly for two hours during off season as well. We give them home programme. They follow the process throughout the year,” the Afghan manager added.