I don’t know if it’s part of a directive put out by the International Cricket Council in order to make test cricket more interesting or if the strength and conditioning coaches of the test playing nations all read the same book, but there must some reason behind it. A common site on the morning of a test match is the site of players from both sides undertaking their warm ups, which usually include some mobility exercises, fielding drills, some batting, some bowling…..and a game of football, rugby or australian rules football. Now, it’s that last part that I have issues with. I’m all for using some cross over training with teams and squads to benefit movement skills, coordination or reactive ability during match performance. It can also break up the monotony of training. The question I would ask is where the benefit is of playing a game of football on the morning of a test match, particularly in arguably the most intense test series around?
For one, I don’t see where the transfer of skills to cricket is apart from maybe playing in goal where reactions/catching are tested, please feel free to enlighten me. At least australian rules and rugby have a large catching element to it and may aid hand eye coordination. Instead, with the England team we have a group of athletes partaking in a game they are not conditioned for, that can include some very stressful multiplanar movements and has the added risk of injury through trauma. How about a dead leg to your opening bowler during an innocuous tackle? An accidental trip and a broken wrist for a key batsman? All possible, especially when you add in the fact that all participants are professional sportsmen who are, by their very nature, incredibly competitive.
I recognize that a warm up for a cricket match isn’t easy to design, particularly given it generally occurs before the toss and you don’t know if the majority of the players will even get onto the pitch during the day’s play. On match day however, my preference would be to keep the mind on cricket and maybe to look at using drills that are very cricket specific and involve a progressive intensity, particularly on the reactive and psychological focus side which would benefit both batsmen and fielders and not be dependent upon the toss. Once the toss is won, players go through their pre-match psych routines, bowlers a slightly more movement specific set of patterns and we’re off.
Matt Prior may or may not have been injured as a result of the warm up game, but either way it’s then a lot to weigh upon the mind of your Andrew Strauss. He then has to contemplate Paul Collingwood as wicket keeper and approach Ricky Ponting to ask about delaying the toss and allow a call up of a replacement keeper from a county game. He then misses his warm up and mental preparations, the rest of the team don’t even know who’s playing (imagine what’s going through Paul Collingwood’s mind) and the dressing room and surrounding areas appear more akin to the deck of the Titanic than cricket changing room. The players can’t help but be distracted by these external goings on and their mental preparation is disrupted. Throw that on top of a fire alarm and the whole team outside the hotel at 0430 and you have some of the worst preparation imaginable. 102 all out seems about right after all that.