The Historical Significance and Definition of Physical Fitness

Theoretical background

Throughout the history of mankind, physical fitness has been considered an important aspect of life. As such, ancient mankind was mainly dependent on their physical strength, vitality, and vigour for survival (Vaidya et al. 2021). They engaged in different activities that required the basic skills of speed, endurance, agility, flexibility, running, jumping, climbing, and throwing, especially for successful hunting, food gathering, shelter building and other life activities. against this backdrop, Mandrekar (2017) defined physical fitness as a concept that is as old as mankind, especially bearing in mind the ‘survival for the fitness’ mantra that has been held since time immemorial. Ideally, only the strong could protect their property with the necessary agility. Furthermore, only the physically fit individuals who could perform vigorous tasks could bear the abnormal stress that the living environment exposed them to (Shukla, 2019).

Physical fitness is one’s ability to carry out muscular work as well as various forms of physical activities without being unduly tired, accompanied by the qualities of health and well-being (Noorbhai & Khumalo, 2021). Similarly, Nazeer et al. (2018) defined physical fitness as the ability to engage in daily activities with alertness and vigour without undue fatigue because of them having ample energy to pursue physical tasks regardless of unforeseen emergencies. Likewise, a physically fit individual can easily achieve regular participation in various exercises that incrementally increase physical fitness (Singh & Singh, 2017). Full productivity of life can therefore not be achieved if one is not physically fit.

Everyone has their levels of physical fitness, which may change depending on their activities of daily living, age, time, or even place of work (Venkatappa, 2018). Physiologically, according to Kiely et al. (2021), fitness is the body’s ability to adapt and recover from strenuous activities. for some individuals, any increase in physical activity increases their physical fitness. Therefore, physical activity and physical fitness have a close correlation in the sense that whereas physical fitness is not entirely determined patterns of recent physical activity (Sharma, 2020). That said, the link between physical activities and physical fitness has been demonstrated in different kinds of sports, whereby physically fit individuals have a higher intensity of performance compared to their rivals with low physical fitness (Tahir et al, 2018).

Fitness in Cricket

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Physical fitness in cricket is a contentious issue. Pundits have evaluated whether cricket players should invest their time and effort to achieve fitness or not. As such, most researchers agree that fitness is as essential for every level of cricket player as it is for any other kind of sports activity. However, some have a contrary opinion.

One of the arguments against fitness training in cricket is that fitness training is generally boring and not fun and that it is often tiring to engage in different fitness training activities such as running or training in the gym (Mahesh, 2021). Similarly, Webster & Travil (2018) argued that fitness training is a highly specific activity and therefore, for example, the best way to train for fitness in cricket is to play as much cricket as possible, and not to ride bikes. On the same note, Weldon et al (2021) argued that cricket is a long game and therefore if one is talented enough, they can be practising or playing cricket daily, and not find time for other forms of fitness training such as running or going to the gym. The other interesting criticism against fitness straining in cricket is that there is always no point in training for fitness if a cricket player is old enough (Praveen, 2018). Lastly, according to Sholto-Douglas et al. (2020), fitness training for cricket players must be approached with caution because too much training will lead to increased weight, ruining their timing techniques.

Scholars have also highlighted a few arguments for physical fitness for cricket players. For example, according to Bhatia (2020), fitness enhances cricket players’ performance by improving their reaction times, bowling speed, and running speed. This is so regardless of a player’s age. More importantly, according to Tahoor & Koley (n.d), even the highly elite players who have bulked up cannot lose their performance. The other argument for physical fitness in cricket is injury prevention. As per Mugandani (2019), players who are physically fit have stronger bones, ligaments, and tendons and muscles that reduce their risk of injury. Additionally, physical fitness enhances teamwork among players because as the players train they do so in groups and pairs, which is great for team building. Also, whereas playing cricket is the best way to get fit for cricket, the human body appreciates variations of activities (Bhat & Sreedhar, 2018). lastly, according to Kathayat & Kumar (2018), general fitness enhances one’s health and well-being.

Therefore, whereas players should not overemphasize fitness so much so that it overtakes, they should have an organized training program that enhances their player capabilities. This is as important in cricket as it is in any other physically demanding game. The arguments for physical fitness in the game of cricket is therefore an important area of research interest. This corroborates with the arguments by Mandrekar (2017), that all sports have a level where the skill and technique levels among players are all equal and therefore the only determining factor is the physical strength and condition of the players. In club level sport, technique and skill among players might differ much more than in international sports where the only difference between the teams is fitness. This implies that any team that is less fit but more talented may outplay the less skilful and fitter team however, this may not the case.

According to Mandrekar (2017), body conditioning provides a competitive edge, assuming all other factors are held equal. for instance, in a game where the players are roughly equal, it would take a very mentally unprepared team to lose if they are physically able to play the last ball to the best of their ability (Vaidya et al. 2021). This is because a faster batsman can steal more runs, more powerful players can hit more boundaries, fitter bowlers can maintain the accuracy and pace even at the death, and less tired fielders can have more reactions and concentration.

Ideally, the team may not benefit from their skills and techniques if they cannot maintain performance under fatigue. According to Nazeer et al. (2018), this explains why even at club cricket levels, the cricketers are advised to consider their diets and fitness plans as much as they improve their practice techniques.

The principles of Cricket fitness

One of the great Greek athletes, Milo became famous for his strength and keeping fit between Olympic games. As per Kathayat & Kumar (2018), Milo would train on gaining progressive overload through different ways that were later scientifically proven just fables. Ideally, the principle of progressive overload states that to be stronger, one must regularly demand more from their body over time (Vaidya et al. 2021). a typical example of this fitness training, which was also practised by Milo is to find an activity that is challenging to the body to allow the body to get fitter. This may include going to the gym, training at home, interval running or sprint training.

However, according to Sholto-Douglas et al. (2020), one cannot just do the same exercises (i.e. same weight, distance, or time) and expect to get fitter. This explains why the process should be ‘progressive’, whereby one increases the amount of weight, sets, repetitions, distance, training sessions and training duration (Vaidya et al. 2021). The key to the progressive overload principle is that gradually, the cricketer should increase the general intensity and duration of training while ensuring they maintain a balance not to overtrain. It is also important for the cricketer to get plenty of rest to allow the overload part to continue as they recover.

The other basic principle of fitness in cricket is that one should get fit in cricket by playing cricket. According to Mandrekar (2017), this is also termed as the principle of specificity, whereby the body adapts to the demand one puts on it in a highly specific way. It explains why runners cannot run faster if they train with bicycles as well as why cricketers may not get better at cricket by sprinting for miles. Therefore, when cricketers have the option, they should select the best form of fitness training that is close to playing cricket. On the same note, Sholto-Douglas et al. (2020) suggested that most power-based team sports including cricket have some identical actions including rapid change of direction, jumping, sprinting, and striking.

This implies that certain exercises may not be cricket specific but are still highly important for cricketers. For example, if one can run faster when playing hockey, they can also run fast when playing football, or cricket. However, Nazeer et al. (2018) argued that core stability, sprint training weightlifting or mobility work may not have any perceived correlation with cricket due to the law of specificity. They are more sport-specific than they are cricket specific but, for example, if a cricketer trains to run fast, they can easily steal more quick singles. Therefore, while playing as much as possible might be a cricketer’s priority, they should also try to improve on their specificity.

Fitness fades as soon a sone stops training. it is not like riding a bike where the muscles do not forget. This makes up the third principle of fitness training which is: all training improvements reverse when one stops training (Vaidya et al. 2021). however, this reversal may occur at a relatively slower speed. But Kathayat & Kumar (2018) recommends that anything beyond one week or a few days before training again might be regrettable as it may lead to a steady decline in cricket endurance, power, and speed. Therefore. Cricketers must maintain a regular training plan as this can help them achieve fitness gains.

But research has also established that the reversibility principle of fitness can contribute to other problems. For example, according to Mandrekar (2017), a fit cricketer must develop a lot of areas to acquire and maintain peak performance of power, speed, agility, work capacity technical skills and balance. Even so, it is impossible to maintain all these attributes at the same time or improve on them simultaneously. This implies that cricketers must take a concentrated approach to training, whereby they focus on improving two or three aspects of fitness at any one time while maintaining the others through, for example, fewer sessions (Noorbhai & Khumalo, 2021). Sholto-Douglas et al. (2020) also proposed that cricketers can rotate the areas of focus to achieve the best results while maintaining progress son all of them.

Apart from the basic principles of fitness mentioned above, existing research has also highlighted a few golden rules of fitness that can be applied in cricket fitness. Considering the involving nature of fitness training, cricketers can avoid those that are a waste of time and embrace those that have been proven over time. That said, one of the golden rules for fitness in cricket is recovery. According to Nazeer et al. (2018), athletes need to rest after a long session of training because the improvements occur after training and not after the same. While the amount of rest is an issue of debate, there is a consensus among fitness pundits that it is important to get enough rest after fitness training.

Periodization is also another golden rule for fitness training. According to Kathayat & Kumar (2018), cricketers need to embrace the proven idea that their training should be split into cycles depending on their training goals and the season of the year. In this regard, coaches can use different approaches and techniques to achieve periodisation, while others ignore it together.

The other golden rule for cricket fitness training is fast-twitch training, which improves the fast part of muscles for the short burst activities involved in cricket (Mahesh, 2021). This corroborates with recent research that has proven that slow training such as long runs is only effective for slow athletes and that fast-twitch training improves cricketer’s fast-twitch fibres that support cricket’s burst activities (Kiely et al. 2021).

The kinetic chain theory is also another effective golden fitness straining rule in cricket. According to Mandrekar (2017), the theory holds that an athlete’s brain controls their bodies through whole movements and not individual muscles. Therefore, for cricketers to train effectively, they should avoid trying to make individual muscles stronger or better and instead, they should train their full-body movements. While this theory is difficult to prove scientifically, its proponents believe that training body movements can help athletes be more powerful faster.

The other considerable golden rule is individual differences. According to Tahir et al (2018), every cricketer may respond to training in the same way but at different levels depending on their age, medical history, genetic composition, and fitness. However, there is no need for worry if the athlete is adhering to the progressive overload principle (Vaidya et al. 2021).

Gym fitness versus match fitness

Based on the fitness principle of specificity, there is a difference between gym fitness and fitness for cricket. For instance, batsmen must bat based on the match conditions while bowlers must bowl in response to them, a concept that seems to be forgotten in the gym culture (Noorbhai & Khumalo, 2021). Instead, as per Kathayat & Kumar (2018), fitness is measured based on pulse rates and bleep-test, which are mostly confused with being match-fit or ready to compete with opponent cricketers rather than competing with a dumbbell.

Against this backdrop, one of the basic principles of training is a specific adaptation to imposed demand (SAID). According to Nazeer et al. (2018), SAID means that if an athlete wants to get fit for cricket, they should play cricket. It creates a psychological difference that might manifest in the difference between a player who looks good in the nets only to shell up in the middle, and one who is physically fit and is all out there to do what is required of them. Therefore, the only way to deal with this psychological difference is to play as many matches as possible.

Some scholars strongly believe that gym work g9ves players the wrong focus. According to Kiely et al. (2021), players who focus too much on the gym do so at the expense of training to improve their cricket performance. Working towards a better test score or lifting more weights make the gym work an end rather than a means to an end. This is not to discourage players from gym work. Rather, it encourages cricketers not to make fitness work become their focus and end up with a poor performance on the pitch.

Contrariwise, some strongly support gym work as much as they support playing cricket matches. According to Kiely et al. (2021), gym work has significant benefits on cricketers’ speed, power, concentration, and recovery, and therefore gym work should be made part of training as much as match playing is. But playing a lot of crickets is important for any cricketer’s success. The more cricketer bowls and bats, the more they get competitive over these elements. On the other hand, cricket may also create some imbalances in the muscles that if an athlete fails to train for fitness, they may be more susceptible to injury. Therefore, the right balance between fitness straining and match playing may be more advantageous than leaning on either of them, especially for bowlers.

Moreover, training provides a lot of mental challenges to the cricketer. According to Mandrekar (2017), cricketers might find it challenging to go to the gym for an extended duration while achieving continuous improvement. This makes the athlete be in competition with themselves, which is just as important as if they were competing in the field. Even so, fitness is something that can be accurately controlled and measured. However, it is impossible to measure how one is ready to compete. Therefore, whereas one needs to perform the right form of fitness training, training alone without playing matches will lead to some amounts of fitness abilities not being transferred to the pitch.

That said, some elements of fitness are universal and apply to almost all sports. For example, jumping, sprinting, striking, and changing direction are far more similar across many sports than they are different. If one can run fast while playing cricket, one can run as fast as when playing hockey. Therefore, the major difference between gym works and cricket matches is that the former gets cricketers fit to play while the latter enables cricketers to play to get fit (Noorbhai & Khumalo, 2021).

Fitness in cricket

The fitter cricketers are, the better they can play. Many cricketers lack the knowledge on how to get fit. First, as per Mandrekar (2017), the best way to start is to develop some fitness at the gym. For instance, a cricketer may use a basic fitness training program developed by a gym instructor to achieve quick improvements. But the fitness straining might not be beneficial if the cricketer fails to orient the training to cricket. Thus, the aim should be to develop a foundation fitness.

A few scholars have suggested a set of fitness routines for cricketers that are based on a few sets of principles. the first principle, according to Kathayat & Kumar (2018), is that of overload to progress, which states that for the body to achieve improved performance, it needs to be overloaded slightly more than it is used to. This explains why lifting heavy weights makes one stronger while running makes one fitter. This principle also explains why cricketers must constantly review their workout plans to ensure they are overloading their muscles. Muscles tend to quickly adapt to the workout stresses.

The second principle is that of reverse, whereby just as fast as the muscles adapt to increased loads, so do they reverse as soon as the cricketer stops working out. Furthermore, the specificity of training also matters because, for example, strength training may not lead to any endurance. Therefore, in the early stages of cricket fitness straining, the cricketer must be very specific about their aims and objectives. This implies that all training at the early stages should be done at a consistent pace while focusing on the muscles they would use while playing. A cricketer’s early training must also consider free weights. Nazeer et al. (2018) advised that cricketers should use free weights rather than machines for work out, even though it would be safer for beginners to use machines rather than free weights. Nonetheless, the early fitness training should also be periodic.

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Many pieces of research have been done on the usefulness of physical, most of them proving that physical fitness has a healthy and useful impact on cricketers’ performance at the pitch. During a cricket game, players engage in a variety of high and low-intensity activities, which requires their ability to sprint, change direction and change velocity (Vaidya et al. 2021). in the past few years, literature has defined the standard physical fitness requirements for cricketers, referring to the levels of agility, strength, speed, power, and endurance. However, not all cricketers meet these standards and therefore it is important to measure and compare the different levels of these variables and their impact on a cricket team’s performance at the pitch. As a result, this study seeks to compare the fitness variables of cricket players from Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridgeshire premier league.

References

  • Bhat, Z.A. and Sreedhar, K., 2018. Effect of cricket specific fitness training program on physical variables among college level men cricket players of Jammu and Kashmir State. Age, 21(1.18), pp.21-10.
  • Bhatia, V., 2020, November. A review of Machine Learning based Recommendation approaches for cricket. In 2020 Sixth International Conference on Parallel, Distributed and Grid Computing (PDGC) (pp. 421-427). IEEE.
  • Kathayat, L.B. and Kumar, A., 2018. Haemodynamic and VO2max Profile of Punjabi Cricket Players. Journal of Exercise Science & Physiotherapy Vol, 14(2).
  • Kiely, N., Pickering Rodriguez, L., Watsford, M., Reddin, T., Hardy, S. and Duffield, R., 2021. The influence of technique and physical capacity on ball release speed in cricket fast-bowling. Journal of Sports Sciences, pp.1-9.
  • Mahesh, P., 2021. Effect of circuit training on selected physical fitness variables and skill performance among medium pace cricket bowlers in Coimbatore district. Bharathiar National Journal of Physical Education and Exercise Science (ISSN: 0976-3678) e-ISSN Applied (International Peer-Reviewed Journal), 12(1), pp.26-30.
  • Mandrekar, S., 2017. A comparative study on selected physical fitness variables of inter collegiate cricket and football players of Goa. International Journal of Physiology, Nutrition and Physical Education, 2(1), pp.430-433.
  • Mugandani, S.C., 2019. Athletic performance enhancing ACE, ACTN3, AMPD1 genetic markers, fitness characteristics, c-reactive protein and uric acid of cricket, netball, rugby and soccer players: a review. Journal of Applied Sports Sciences, (1), pp.131-149.
  • Nazeer, M.T., Haq, M.Z.U. and Habib, M.B., 2018. Anthropometric and Physical Fitness of the Under-16 Regional-School Cricket Players, of Bahawalpur, Pakistan. Global Regional Review, 3(1), pp.333-342.
  • Noorbhai, H. and Khumalo, A., 2021. Anthropometric and physical fitness characteristics of male university cricket club players in accordance to player position and height categories. F1000Research, 10(784), p.784.
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  • Shukla, A.K., 2019. Effect of plyometric exercises on physical fitness component speed in cricket players. International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health, 6(2), pp.03-04.
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  • Tahir, M., Zia UI Haq, M. and Habib, M.B., 2018. Anthropometric and Physical Fitness of the Under-16 Regional-School Cricket Players, of Bahawalpur, Pakistan. Global Regional Rev., 3(1), pp.333-342.
  • Tahoor, A. and Koley, S., Anthropometric Variables and Physical Fitness Characteristics in Female Cricket Players of Maharashtra and Punjab: A Comparative Study.
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