There is more to match fitness than meets the eye

Tumi MasekelaFile image: Tumi Masekela.

Match fitness will be a veritable buzzword when international cricket eventually returns after several nationwide lockdowns.

Players synonymous with picking up full-blown injuries or just nursing minor niggles will be in the spotlight more than ever. The South African cricket team certainly has a few of these, especially in their bowling attack.

Lungi Ngidi missed part of last year’s World Cup due to injury. Anrich Nortje has also had a stop-start international career because of similar reasons. Dale Steyn, meanwhile, has arguably done the right thing by retiring from the longest format of the international game, Test cricket, in an attempt to prolong his match fitness through the remainder of his ODI and T20I career.

“It goes without saying that acclimatising to conditions is a big factor,” strength and conditioning coach for the South Africa men’s cricket team Tumi Masekela told Betway.

“If you’re going to play in different conditions, particularly when it’s hotter in the subcontinent, you need to give yourself enough time to adapt and perform at peak levels.

“That makes it even more difficult for the guys coming back from injury to hit their targets, but that’s why their baselines before injury are so important. If they’re trying to rush themselves, I can show them how far off the mark they are.

“You get some guys who are so passionate. They feel that if they’re not playing then they’re letting the team down.”

Tough climes at the right times

Masakela’s sentiment is borne out by the need for adaptation in India, the Caribbean and United Arab Emirates, in particular. Stifling heat and dry conditions make it especially taxing for South African cricketers – who are used to a moderate climate – to adapt.

That said, those who come from hotter regions like Bloemfontein might hold an advantage over those who hail from Cape Town’s fair weather. By example, a Knights (Bloemfontein franchise) would most likely find it easier to cope with the conditions in Mumbai, Dubai and Jamaica than a bowler from the Cape Cobras (Cape Town franchise).

But at the end of the day, these are professional cricketers, whose jobs it is to deal with all that is put in front of them. Their goal is not simply to just take wickets and make runs, but to do it in the most difficult conditions around, on cue, when required.