The most important factor in CSK vs RR at Chepauk? Water
Photo: CSK/ Twitter

The most important factor in CSK vs RR at Chepauk? Water

With Chennai playing an afternoon home fixture a day after the evening game in Gujarat, Kalyani Mangale looks behind-the-scenes work that goes into helping players recover and stay fit.

Saturday was yet another hot summer day at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai. The official temperature of the city touched 33 degrees Celsius, but it was so hot that the 'feels like' feature of the weather app would have told you a number in the mid 40s and you would have easily believed it. Such was the condition near the venue that just after 10 minutes of exposure to the sunlight, your mobile phone would stop working because of overheating. If the machine humans created to withstand the extremes could not work in that much heat, imagine how hard it must be for cricketers, who are to play a game in this condition.

That is where the Strength and Conditioning experts along with the support staff come in to make sure the players are fit enough to take part in the game. "The first thing the players need is to get into active recovery mode," Ramji Srinivasan, the Founder & Director of Sports Dynamix, a Chennai-based sports fitness centre told this daily. "A protocol for active recovery for all the players and also for individual players depending on the skill set, given how much the player has bowled or batted is required. All those things need to be taken into consideration in embarking on recovery protocols. Proper hydration also counts. Testing the urine colour and urine-specific gravity gives a correct reading on whether the player is hydrated or not. Along with good recovery protocols, a proper meal is vital. Combined with all these things, (a player is required to have) a good eight hours of sleep," Srinivasan mentioned.

Chennai, after playing the night fixture against Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad on Friday, arrived in the city on Saturday evening and majority of the team opted to rest and did not practice on the eve of the match. Meanwhile, Rajasthan have been training in the afternoon for a couple of days (Friday and Saturday) to get used to the conditions. The home team had only one day to complete the recovery and get ready for the afternoon game in Chennai against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday. The support staff will have their work cut out for them given the afternoon game is in Chennai's hot and humid conditions. Srinivasan underlines how the hydration protocol will take center stage going into the fixture. "If you play at 7.30 in the evening, the conditions are different than playing at 2.30 or 3 in the afternoon. So wherever you are, whether it's hot and humid or dry heat, it is going to be different and difficult, that's why you need to prepare yourself well ahead.

"From food to hydration, to recovery, everything needs to be planned very well ahead. Because Chennai will be very hot and humid the players need to be hydrated well ahead of the match. Hydration protocol includes checking the urine colour. That is a basic standard. Check the weight before, during, and post-match to see the amount of water loss and have 1.5 times the quantity of that. Along with that, they will use electrolytes. So that largely forms a part of the hydration protocol. Checking the urine's specific gravity is important as that gives a correct picture of hydration. So, hydration along with electrolytes is important to prevent any sort of cramping or blackout issues, or even sudden deaths," the former Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of India's team.

With the IPL season coming to its business end, especially in the intense heat the country has seen, it is natural for players to feel the fatigue settling in. However, Srinivasan has an answer to that. "That is where workload management comes into the picture. Workload management incorporates all these protocols into a place apart from workout schedules and other things. In workload management individualizing the needs is very important. It is not one size fits all, every player is different. Those who have played, those who are playing contagiously, those who are carrying niggles, those who are carrying injuries, those who are sitting on the bench, everybody's needs are different. You need to adhere to those protocols strictly. Some of them have played all the matches, while some have played as Impact Substitutes. That gives them a bit of a reprieve. Those who are playing all the matches, need to be managed very well, including the active and passive recovery protocols," he mentioned.

In the end, Srinivasan boils all of these protocols down to the dedication of the support staff and how well they implement the existing policies to help players recover best with not a lot of turnaround time at hand. "The entire process and protocols and how it is designed depend on the support staff, how fresh they keep the players, how fit they keep the players, and how well they maintain the players, mentally and physically. It's completely up to the domain of the support staff. They need to take responsibility for that. Players are there to play and win. So it is up to the support staff to take the onus to see to that the protocol is followed."

Rajasthan Royal's Donovan Ferreira echoed the same sentiments while giving credit to the medical staff behind the scenes for keeping the players fit, hydrated and ready to go in the different weather conditions all over India in the past two months. "Fortunately for us, the training schedule allows us to train in the afternoon. So we get used to the heat. I don't think it is possible to replicate any match intensity at training, but we try to do it as much as possible. We have an amazing medical team that keeps us hydrated and ready for the game. You cannot really be 100% prepared because this heat and the humidity is crazy but hopefully (because) we are training in this heat and humidity for the last two days that should condition us as sportsmen to be ready for the game." the all-rounder said.

Whatever maybe the result on Sunday afternoon, the strength and conditioning and other support staff of both teams are already the winners.

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