If they are to go all the way to the final at Lord’s — a ground famous for its slope — then the Indian team will first have to deal with the road taking them there, which is about to hit a slope of a different kind.
After having played just five matches in the space of 28 days, Virat Kohli’s side will have now have to contest in six matches over the next 18 days, presuming their campaign is still alive on the morning of July 14th. Even if it isn’t, India’s next four group games have been scheduled within a period of 10 days.
The climb begins here in Manchester on Thursday, when India take on the West Indies. That is followed by two matches in three days in Birmingham, against hosts England on Sunday and Bangladesh on Tuesday. While such a rapid change in rhythm could have an adverse effect on most teams, it is unlikely to trouble India – a squad whose members (every single one of them) are primed in playing many restless and back-to-back matches in the IPL.
To get through the gruels of an IPL season unscathed, the new-age Indian cricketer has to be supremely fit and the conditioning coach of the Indian team, Shankar Basu, even claimed that physical training is now viewed in the dressing room as a skill-set. “Just like batting, bowling and fielding, the new skill was fitness,” Basu said before the Afghanistan game in Southampton.
“Fitness is not just about ticking a box. We take it very seriously,” said Basu, who likened the fitness needed to get through an IPL season as their ‘Mt Everest’, while the World Cup equivalent was summiting ‘Mt. Kilimanjaro’. “The captain and the coach wanted to use fitness as a vehicle. And my job was to augment that process. And all I did was to make it a point that, this was another facet of the sport, and where we had to train like Olympic athletes.”
Fit too like an Olympic athlete, Kohli arrived at Old Trafford on Tuesday, despite the fact that the practice session was optional due to rain. Kohli was one of only four players – Vijay Shankar, the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja (who is yet to feature in this Cup) were the others. The cameras were of course then trained on the India captain’s indoor nets session, what with Kohli putting on display the same intensity as he does when batting in a match. This was him preparing for India’s scheduling gradient, and ostensibly, towards the final ascent of the slope at Lord’s.