Fitness takes centre stage as Virat, Dhoni, Shami lead India's World Cup campaign
Virat Kohli is the quintessential 'teacher's delight' but it is injury-prone Mohammed Shami, in his current fit avatar, that India's strength and conditioning coach Shankar Basu considers his biggest achievement.
Shankar Basu - Indian team's strength and conditioning coach
Shankar Basu has had two stints with the side starting 2015 and satisfaction for him comes from making a fitness freak out of an injury-prone Shami or even a Kedar Jadhav, who till 31-32, didn't do any proper fitness training.
He terms himself a "model failure athlete", who represented India at the Asian Junior Athletics Championship in Tokyo back in 1987.
"Anand Natarajan (former 100m National champion) was my batchmate. I didn't have it in me to represent India at the senior level. So when I work with these boys, my biggest advantage is learning from the mistakes I have made in the last 25 years. What not to do," he laughed.
Kohli is teacher's delight
"Virat is any teacher's delight. His biggest attribute is that he is ready to do boring stuff every single day of the year,'' Basu said.
He knows his body and if he is training, he will have 100 questions with regards to routines. Once he gets the answers, he follows them with all sincerity," Basu told.
Fit and fab Shami
A new and improved Shami didn't miss a single Test match last season due to injury and maintained his intensity throughout.
"Probably you can say that," smiles the former junior India sprinter when asked whether he considered Shami his biggest achievement.
Basu gave a sneak peek into Shami's lifestyle that has gone for a complete overhaul.
"He is a meat eater but now he has cut down on his junk food. He is probably the first example in this Indian team who has started the concept of intermittent fasting,'' said Basu
Pace battery super charged
Another player who has shown remarkable improvement is Jasprit Bumrah.
Basu praised him for raising the bar to an altogether different level.
"Bumrah wasn't one of the fittest guys when he came into the team. Today he is in that top bracket due to his sheer hard work, proper diet, good sleeping pattern,'' he said.
"From 137 kmph speed, he now regularly clocks 147 kmph. Ditto for Bhuvi who bowls 140 clicks," said Basu, who couldn't have been happier that there's been no injury issue for any of the fast bowlers during the season.
The training patterns, as well as the eating patterns, are different and it's a myth that every player in this team eats grilled food like their skipper.
'Pandya can eat a elephant and look thin'
For Basu, even a rice-eater like Vijay Shankar is not a problem.
"You need to understand that Vijay is a superb athlete. He comes from a South Indian background and he has a connection with certain types of food. You can't take that away from him. Like Hardik Pandya can eat an elephant but yet he will always look thin," Basu quipped.
Dhoni, Pant and Negi are brute power
Talk about Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Basu said that the former skipper "knows his body very well".
"If we talk about brute power, I will take three names who are possibly the strongest because of their background from hilly regions,'' Basu said.
''Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rishabh Pant and Pawan Negi. When we talk about raw power, these three top the list. Rishabh has unbelievable power," Basu observed.
Different player, different routine
"Virat and DK do proper weightlifting. But Bumrah and KL Rahul do a lot of plyometric exercises which involves jumping. This helps in generating power and speed. So there are a thousand ways to skin a cat. Their bodies are different and hence the routines are also different," Basu said.
A changed fitness culture in Indian team
''The head coach and Virat run this fitness vehicle," Basu said.
"If I tell Bharath Arun (bowling coach), who is a dear friend that bowlers would only bowl a specific number or Sanjay (Bangar) that batsmen shouldn't bat more than a stipulated period, they follow that,'' Basu added.
When he was offered to the Indian team job, Basu was clear in his mind that he wanted a change in the fitness culture and support of the coaching staff has been "incredible".