In an era where extreme levels of fitness are essential among professional athletes, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s strength and conditioning coach Shankar Basu feels his primary role is that much easier. Regarded as one of the top trainers in the country – having recently been roped in by the Indian team’s support staff – it is Basu’s unique approach to the new buzzword of today’s sportspersons that makes him stand out from his peers. The man behind Chris Gayle’s power play, Virat Kohli’s electric running between the wickets and AB de Villiers sharpness on the field opened up about the training and conditioning his team has to coordinate in their state-of the art gym at the team hotel.
Could you describe your brand of fitness and strength training for the team?
T20 cricket is all about power, speed and agility. Our style is different, as we make use of interesting equipment and keep our training specific. For example, we use foam polymetric boxes where players can work on their jumps. Any type of jumping work enhances power. We have special rubberized flooring so our players feel comfortable in the gym. We have special platforms where the boys do proper weightlifting. Research has shown that the most flexible athletes in the Olympics after the gymnasts are weightlifters. Strength training boosts power and that is why athletes hit better, explode off t the blocks and switch direction faster. Apart from improving performance over time, it also prevents breakdowns.
How do the players approach this training?
We have a beginner group that is introduced to this training. Then comes an intermediate group that is prepped for the next level. Finally, there are professional-level athletes like Virat Kohli, Mandeep Singh, Varun Aaron and Harshal Patel. These guys do the proper power, strength and lifting workouts. We have a leaderboard in the gym and healthy competition. In two months athletes move to the next level. This transition takes between 8 to 12 weeks. We follow their progress right through the year after that.
What is it like working with athletes from different countries and working with the locals…
I coordinate with all of their trainers and make a note of their programmes. Some of the domestic players are pros and they know what they are doing. They follow up right through the year and it’s like coming back home for them during the IPL and we only try to up the ante here.
Have any of the elite athletes stood out in the way they have developed their attitudes to fitness?
Virat Kohli is a total professional cricketer right from the way he eats and trains to the way he takes care of his body. I have seen him and his transition from the U-19 level and he has taken fitness to another level. I have always told him that Novak Djokovic should be his target. Now, I feel that Djokovic should be targeting Kohli, he definitely has some catching-up to do.
How important is food and diet in supplementing your training? What is the typical meal of an RCB player?
In today’s world, if an athlete doesn’t follow some nutrition plan and is still successful, he is blessed. Indian food is full of carbohydrates so I tell my players that they have to earn their excess carbohydrates. I ensure there is quality protein and fat in every meal. A typical meal would be eggs and fruits in the morning and idly or dosa. We have a few vegetarians and we push them to have eggs for protein. Lunch comprises a lot of vegetables and grilled meat, or paneer and mushrooms. For dinner, it’s usually a steak and some proteins.