PUNE: One of the most difficult tasks that comes with being a T20 pro around the globe is to manage the body in absence of a regular physio and trainer. It isn’t easy, especially in the case of ageing players, whose workload and physical prowess are not familiar to physios and trainers as they hardly get to track their routine. Some players have already have their own routine, which they share with respective franchises. On Thursday Chris Gayle showed it. At 38, he is not getting fitter. But like he revealed later, he knows he had to reinvent himself after two seasons around the globe, where his striking abilities had waned.
For a player who had shown incredible consistency in T20s, necessity to stay relevant and conversations with Virender Sehwag helped him. On Friday, another player who had hung his boots in international cricket showed why more and more such men are not only the most sought after, but why they are also so relevant. It is no rocket science for T20 franchises to go for specialist players. But with them, the age factor hardly matters. For all the talk of this being a format for young legs, it is the golden oldies who’ve been exceptional. Brad Hodge was one of those who started this trend. He did so at a phase of his career where a national call-up was only going to remain as hope.
Another example is Lasith Malinga, who gave up Test cricket eight years ago to prolong his career. Watson, who had to battle with his fragile body from the time he came on to the scene, retired from international cricket because his body was not responding to the demands. When he turned into a T20 pro, he wouldn’t have known what was in store for him. Not all players who break away from international cricket are as blessed as Gayle and Watson, although the former has represented West Indies on and off. But as Watson mentioned on Friday after his century against Rajasthan Royals, it gave him a new lease of life.
“Honestly, I’ve been dreaming of a day like this for the last couple of years. It reminds me of the time when I was at my best consistently. But to bat this well at this stage of my career, whether it’s in Big Bash, PSL or IPL, makes things special. “In the last few years, I was not at my best. I’ve had a lot of injuries and learned things the hard way. Now, it continues to be a process of how I manage my body, whether it’s training or recovery in the lead up to games. Basically, your body gets used to doing what you to do.” A physio who has worked with an IPL franchise explained how these players are getting to know their body more than ever thanks to T20s.
Format-based skills often get to be overlooked, in international cricket, where the schedule is so cramped. But these days players, especially T20 pros, have found what it takes to prolong their careers. “I am playing only T20s. It definitely helps. When I was playing for Australia, I was changing formats all the time. It’s a challenge. When you are coming from a Test series, going into T20 mode takes time. Some players do it easily but I always found it challenging to get up to speed quickly.
All I am doing is practising T20 skills. It’s an advantage. For a period, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to continue playing. But I realised that I loved it more than anything. To have the desire, to find that inside … that I am still able to compete with the best … that’s what I found in Big Bash and all the way through PSL.”