The Bengal cricket team’s glorious outing in this year’s Ranji Trophy was more than just tactics, preparation and skill. If experts are to be believed, the focus on fitness had a major role to play in the side’s outstanding performance. t2 caught up with Sanjib Das, the strength, conditioning and training coach of the team.
Tell us a bit about yourself… how did you get into fitness?
I have been an avid cricketer — first division, university, club cricket. I used to be a batsman. I always had a passion for training even then. I loved running. So I decided to do something that would let me be in touch with the game. I also broke my arm in a match while fielding. I had made a century in the match. I got selected for a job but I was rejected in the medical test owing to the fracture. This was how it all started.
How did you start?
Since I was into training myself from an early age, I believed I could take care of the fitness, strength and conditioning of these ace athletes. My journey as a fitness coach started from 2006. I joined Gold’s Gym as a personal fitness trainer. I was also training the Bengal Under-16 and Under-19 teams. In 2010, I qualified for the American College of Sports Medicine course in personal training. In 2010-11, I completed the BCCI-NCA Level 1 course. I also worked with the senior Bengal team when Laxmi Ratan Shukla was the captain. In 2015, I completed the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA) Level 1 course. Last year I completed Level 2. Now I am preparing for Level 3. All high-profile games such as the EPL focus on the Level 3 training. One needs to get better every day. As a professional, that is my motto and philosophy. Keep bettering yourself every moment. Age is not a factor if you are fit and healthy.
How did you get a chance to work with the Bengal team?
In 2010, I received an offer to work at the NCA at the Under-16 national camp. I learnt a lot over there. I had assignments every year since then with zonal and national camps. I worked with the Indian team. I have worked with all the zones in the country. I gained a lot of confidence. In 2012-13, I got an offer from the Rajasthan Ranji team. I also worked with the Goa team. After that CAB gave me a call and now it’s been three years that I have been working with the Bengal team.
Tell us how you shaped up the Bengal team…
I must say the Bengal boys are very hardworking. I simply made their training more specific. I have tried to inculcate a philosophy and culture that training is a year-long process and you have to keep staying fit. Now no matter where the boys are, they strive to keep fit and train.
How did you train them in the lockdown?
Arun Lal ji, the coach, and I used to take online classes. I sent them schedules of workouts. We needed a lot of positivity at that point. Arun Lal ji and I discussed it. We decided to advise them over Zoom and Google Duo. We divided the players into groups and sent them individual fitness programmes. The CAB was among the first to start the online training. The groups had different timings and me and Lal ji used to monitor them digitally.
What were the focus areas?
It was more game-specific. I worked on running mechanics, explosive strength and power. I worked with the fast bowlers on running techniques. I stressed on speed and endurance. For the batsmen, I worked on their reaction abilities, movements and speed. I also had to customise the training looking at individual and specific needs.
Everyone has been attributing Bengal’s dream run in the Ranji this year to fitness.
We were playing a lot of matches. From ODIs to T20, to then the Ranji. It started around September and finished in March. There was no major gap and also if you recall, none of the players were injured, including the pacers.
Who are the fittest players in the Bengal team?
Bengal is one of the fittest teams in the country. We have very fit players like Ishan Porel, Akash Deep and Mukesh Kumar. Also Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shreevats Goswami and Sayan Ghosh.
How did you keep yourself fit in the lockdown?
I had taken rest for a week when the lockdown was announced. It was after a very long time that I took a break. Then I started running around 10km daily starting at 5am, I used free weights at home. I exercised on the roof. I did yoga.
You also train Tollywood actor Jeet…
Jeetda is a leading star in Tollywood and it is a great experience working with him. He is very hard-working and puts in a lot of effort. He loves to train and it is fun working with him. He is focusing on strength training now. I go to his place to train him. He has his own set-up.
Exercise tips for people during lockdown…
Keep yourself active. Start exercising. Do brisk walking, a bit of stretching, normal breathing exercises. You can run if you like.