The Tekkers It Takes To Be An International Cricketer
We’ve got in touch with top Strength and Conditioning coach Phil Scott, and with the help of some questions from Rainham CC players we hope to get some insight into the elite training of international cricketers and what Phil does with the England cricket team to get them ready for the big matches.
Meet Phil Scott (PS)
Currently the England cricket team Strength and Conditioning coach.
He has a background working with multiple sports and has lots of experience in training elite level athletes.
To add to his incredible experience he’s also got a bucketful of degrees and letters after his name - focusing on sports science, strength and conditioning and neuromuscular responses to fatigue.
What are the most important physical requirements for cricket and does it vary on type of player?
Cricket is fundamentally a power sport but with the significant fact that it is played over a long duration. Therefore, players need to have good levels of strength which underpins their powerful movements and speed.
They then need to repeat these explosive movements over a long period of play, from 3 hours in T20 to 6 hours in a Test match day and hence a good aerobic base from which to recover between deliveries, shots, sprints in the field and running between wickets is important too.
How much time do you focus in the weights room?
As much time as the schedule allows with the number of matches and the time we spend travelling. Being able to maintain, top up or improve levels of strength for the players is key.
Sessions will include the main compound lifts for players and then specifics will be done on top of that depending on the players role, for example batters will have more medball rotational power drills whilst bowlers will have a larger focus on their trunk stiffness.
After that there will be specifics for each player depending on their injury history and work that needs to be done to reduce the chance of future incidence.
How and why do you monitor players?
We, like all sports, will monitor our players from a load management point of view. From a very general standpoint, if you avoid spikes in load or loads that go beyond the individual’s capacity for that day or week then you are giving your athlete the best chance to stay on the field. Asking a player to do 1.5 – 2 times the amount of work they are used to will likely create some issues at some point (see work by Tim Gabbett).
We do this using a combination of the Catapult GPS system that looks at distance, speeds and deliveries bowled for the bowlers as well as a very simple method of monitoring training loads with session time (mins) x session RPE (using a scale from 1-10) (Foster et al., 2001).
With these it creates an objective marker to make sure players are not over or under trained, hopefully, reducing the likelihood of injuries whilst improving performance.
How important is physical fitness in cricket nowadays?
Immensely. With the number and intensity of matches in a year and bowlers covering up to 55km (Catapult GPS) in a Test match specifically they need to be in good physical conditioning in order to repeat this not just over the summer but throughout the whole year with the long winter tour schedule (we can tour up to 300 days on the road).
If a batsman is to score a Test match hundred followed by a day in the field then they too would have covered around 22-25km (Catapult GPS) with still another half of the match to go. Bowlers, keeper or batter the demands are high.
What do the players eat to stay at the top of their game?
The level of nutritional support provided to the players is at a very good standard these days. Led by Chris Rosimus, the England nutritionist, the players will be provided with excellent food at each ground and hotel. There is nothing new here, it is just done well.
For example, high protein through a mixture of meat, chicken, fish is provided. There will always be lots of vegetables on offer and then low GI carbohydrates such as sweet potato, wholemeal pasta, quinoa.
The key to this good food is the timing, more specifically the timing of carbohydrates is key. You are always looking to take on your protein and vegetables, but carbohydrate timing is more related to the type of session. If you have just completed your intense training session then that is the time to get your carbohydrates on board. If you have had a lower calorie expenditure day then this is when the carbs would be reduced but maintaining the protein and vegetables.
We try to provide high protein snacks such as biltong and there will also be a quality breakfast provided with such foods as eggs, porridge, fruits.
What would you recommend the weekend cricket warrior to include in his training?
One quality that can get overlooked is sprinting. I think people underestimate how fast cricketers run at speed. A fast bowler can cover between 1-2km in a game at speeds over 20kph (Catapult GPS) and boundary riders can cover up to 300m of top end sprints.
It is not all standing around moving at low speeds and practising your sprint work will increase your power output too. It is also free to go to a park and run fast for 20-40m with a slow walk back to the start. Look to do 3 sets of 6 x 30m sprints with 3 mins between each set.
What fitness test do you have for batters, bowlers and keepers? How often do you test these in-season?
All players will complete the following tests. As mentioned above we concentrate on speed so we test the guys on a 40m sprint (a good time would be around 5 seconds), we measure their power through a jump test (a good jump would be around 50cm in height), their agility is measured specifically by a run 2 between the wickets using a bat (a good time would be less than 6 seconds) and their endurance through the YOYO intermittent test (a good score would be over level 19.1).
In season we can monitor the jump heights easily and often as the jump mat is very portable and we can use the run 2 as a training session in itself. The YOYO test I personally leave to the start and end of the season as you can do interval running sessions that are based on their YOYO scores and therefore you get a good and valid idea of where they are from completing a normal interval running session, hitting two birds with one stone.
Outside of these tests for everyone, players will complete individual tests that will vary depending on position. For example, all bowlers will complete a 2-minute side plank test as we know side strains are common with bowlers. Also batters have recently started to be tested on their power hitting (how far can they hit the ball) using new technology at the National Cricket Performance Centre, Loughborough.
What does a warm up entail for a one-day game? Does this differ to a test match?
The warm ups will be fairly similar. The main difference is that some days on a Test match we may spend more time on mobility after a long day in the field the day before and a One day match warm up will tend to be a little more explosive in nature.
When it comes to the specifics of the group warm up I tend to focus on movement skills specific to the player position, hence I split the batters, bowlers and keepers. The reason I focus more on movement skills than increasing temperature is as follows: the guys have already done an individual warm up before they go to the nets to practice their skills which is usually an hour before the group warm up (so they are already warm temperature wise).
Also, we tend to follow the sun in cricket; for example, in Bangladesh in October 2016 it was 38 degrees and 85% humidity… they were already sweating buckets so the movement aspect compliments the environmental and physiological conditions.
What, if any, exercises do you use to aid concentration for long test matches?
Nothing specific. There is some great research being done into mental fatigue at the moment and the effects of that on physical performance. I am sure this is one area that will hugely develop in time.
LBE - Thank you Phil, it’s been great to get an insight into how the Pros do it!