Clayton Murzello: YoYo can be spared some ridicule
Teams will move with the times and fans also want to see athleticism which gives rise to those extra runs taken in singles, twos and threes
The YoYo test has provided the media much fodder to feed on even as the Indian team have arrived in England for one of their most important tours, where they will be judged by their limited overs performances and scrutinised for their Test match mettle across five Tests.
Quite expectedly, the Indian cricket board has handled the YoYo test controversy poorly and unprofessionally. Poorly, because players ought to have been tested before selection and not after; a point well made by the previous chief selector Sandeep Patil in this newspaper. The cart-before-the-horse scenario seems to be an administrative snafu.
Unprofessionally, because the BCCI's communications team should have organised for the team's trainer to elaborate to the media what the YoYo test is all about. This was more than imperative because the fitness test determines whether a player is part of the team. A thorough explanation of the system could have been educative and then the public/media would have decided what to make of it. But the BCCI doesn't seem to care about such aspects while living in their ivory tower, propped up with pillars of intrigue and mystery.
Player fitness is an issue, which the public are interested in and not having the guy who calls the shots on this score come out and explain why this is good for Indian cricket is rather unfortunate, if not undemocratic.
As expected, the issue came up at the Indian team's pre-departure media conference, where head coach Ravi Shastri emphasised, "You pass you play, you fail you sail. Whosoever thinks that it is a one-off thing can take a walk." Fair enough, but the fitness trainer should have been made available to the media.
The YoYo test may not be such a bad thing and although there will be cases of physical fitness taking precedence over cricket skills, it is safe to reckon this is done in the best interests of Indian cricket.
A big impetus on fitness can make a champion team. Ask the cricketers who represented the West Indies in the late 1970s. They had a tough-as-nails trainer in Dennis Waight, who joined the team during Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. Waight's influence on that champion team was so immense that Michael Holding dedicated seven pages to Waight's contribution in his book, No Holding Back.
In the chapter titled Dennis, the fast bowling great spoke about how Waight made members of Clive Lloyd's team Forrest Gumps and they "just kept running." Once, after an overnight flight to Perth, the West Indians checked into their hotel at 5 am. Lloyd soon announced that the team would have to put on their tracksuits and run at a park alongside the beautiful Swan River. Yes, there were murmurs of discontent, but overall the players wanted to get fit.
Waight kept a low profile and hence I was surprised when he agreed to be interviewed by me during the 1998 mini World Cup in Dhaka. Back then, he was in his 21st year with the team and revealed that he had an offer to train the Rest of the World team in World Series Cricket, but chose the West Indians. "I said I don't want the Rest of the World team, I want the West Indies. I had seen them getting a 5-1 hiding from Australia in 1975-76. But I liked their flair and felt there were some potentially great players in their side. All they needed was some training. We trained very hard which was a bit of a shock to them. Then, we kept winning," Waight told me. He was replaced in 2000 and the West Indies have never been the force they were.
The YoYo tests issue will not die a natural death. It will keep coming up in the media when players keep failing with bat and ball after clearing tests. I foresee some degree of mocking, too, and there will come a time when players who failed the tests, will lash out at the current procedure.
There will always be plenty of pundits who will feel that skills come first and too much emphasis on physical fitness may chip away at the importance of scoring runs and claiming wickets. Ultimately, results matter and one must accept that teams will move with the times. Fans also want to see athleticism in cricket, which gives rise to those extra runs taken in singles, twos and threes.
The 2003 World Cup team that played the final against Australia at Johannesburg profited greatly by the presence of Adrian Le Roux, who was India's first fitness trainer. So there's an example for those cynical about fitness. Of course, there were occasions when players gave into the temptation to consume a sweet. I had heard that one player was tucking into his pastry while chatting with a journalist at a food court in Johannesburg, but chucked it under the table the moment he spotted Le Roux heading towards him.
Diet restrictions and tests have been part of the game and must be viewed with perspective. Besides, winning always cuts the whining down to size.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to email@example.com
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