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2k time trial: Why cricketers will have to train and think like middle-distance runners now

Cricketers will have to do a lot more interval training; short intense runs, followed by brief periods of recovery, followed again by high-intensity runs.

Written by Nihal Koshie , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 24, 2021 10:45:47 am
Indian cricket team during a practice session in Australia. (Twitter/BCCI)

The two-kilometre time trial — set at eight minutes and 15 seconds for fast bowlers and 8:30 for batsmen, spinners and wicketkeepers — has become mandatory for India’s centrally-contracted cricketers. How does it compare with the Yo-Yo test, and what are the benefits of a time trial?

What is the 2k time trial?

On a standard athletics track, the distance is covered in five laps of 400 metres each. The timings can be measured with a stop-watch or an electronic clock. The 2k time trial is a speed-endurance test, according to Ramji Srinivasan, the 2011 World Cup-winning Indian team’s strength and conditioning coach. “It is actually a dreaded thing, you tell any athlete a time trial, and they will go ‘Oh dear!’”

How will it help cricketers?

Srinivasan gives the example of someone batting for hours in difficult conditions. “Time trial is going to make you fitter. For example, if you have to cover the last 100 metres in 20 seconds, you cannot stride, you have to sprint. Especially when your muscles are fatigued, you have to push. For example, a batsman is in the 90s, it is extremely hot and humid outside. The time trial will help in terms of when to push (and) when to sprint,” Srinivasan said.

“It especially helps in developing running mechanics, develop breathing patterns. If you have wrong running mechanics, you are basically wasting loads of energy. You understand your heart rate and complete body better (through the time trial).”

Cricketers will be taking their heart level to its near-maximum and stabilising it.

“So as you get fitter, your resting heart rate will come down. The resting heart rate for a top elite athlete like Roger Federer will be in the 30s or 40s. For an average person, it will be in the 70s to 90s. The fitter the athlete, lower the resting heart rate. For example, if you are getting tired in 10 minutes, they will just get warmed up in 10 minutes,” Srinivasan says.

What will it reveal about fitness levels?

Hiding injuries won’t be possible, says Heath Matthews, a sports physiotherapist who works with Olympic-level athletes.

“Running within a specific time tells you a lot about the cardio-vascular system, a lot about injuries or ailments that they are carrying because if you have got pain, it is very difficult to hide that pain for eight minutes continuously and also perform at a high level. It is a good screening test in terms of muscular and skeletal fitness as well as cardio-vascular,” Matthews, the head of sports science and medicine at HN Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai, says.

If an athlete meets the standard set for the time trial, he or she can be termed ‘fit’. “You may not know the minute details about movement in the lower back or strength of the knee but you know, broadly speaking, that an athlete is ‘okay’ because he/she is sustaining high-speed running for a large amount of time.”

Another benefit of the time trial is that it will help to redraw the fitness schedule of a cricketer, if needed. “Quantifiable data (on) whether a particular fitness schedule is working for you or not. If players are injured when running, you can infer various things from a time trial,” Ramji says.

How does 2k in 8:30 compare to world-class track-and-field athletes?

The men’s world record for the 2,000 metres is four minutes and 44.79 seconds, set by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj in 1999. For women, the corresponding timing is 5:23.75 set by Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia in 2017.

For the average Joe, it takes about 10 to 12 minutes to walk a kilometre, so a brisk walker can complete 2k in about 18 minutes. Elite athletes, who are into running, take about six minutes to complete the two-kilometre time trial, and someone who runs regularly can do it in about 14 minutes. Srinivasan believes 8:30 or 8:15 is a good base to start for the Indian cricketers.

Are other teams using the time-trial test?

Ahead of the 2015 World Cup, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Michael Clarke’s time for the 2k time trial was cut by 40 to 50 seconds because he was in a race against time following a hamstring injury.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes ran a sub-seven-minute trial ahead of the 2019 Ashes. Stokes was going at 17 kilometres an hour, according to England’s strength and conditioning coach Phil Scott’s column in the Daily Mail.

According to Srinivasan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and New Zealand also put cricketers through the time-trial test.

Will Indian cricketers have to train differently to meet target times?

“They will have to hit the road running,” Srinivasan says. “You have a double whammy of developing speed-endurance as well as maximum aerobic speed. They have to think like a 1,500-metre or 3,000-metre runner. They have to train like middle-distance runners. Every session needs to be target-oriented. You cannot just take two or three minutes to run a lap and then expect to improve on your speed-endurance.”

Cricketers will have to do a lot more interval training; short intense runs, followed by brief periods of recovery, followed again by high-intensity runs. The mechanics of running on a treadmill is very different from that of running outdoors or on a track, where cricketers will have to do the time trial, Ramji says.

How is the time trial different from a Yo-Yo test?

In the Yo-Yo test, two cones are placed 20 metres apart. At the first beep, the athlete starts and must reach the cone at the other end before the second beep, and then turn and run back to cross the starting point before the third beep.

As the Yo-Yo test level gets tougher, the frequency of the beeps increases and the number of shuttles (up and down runs) also goes up before a player gets a short break. A player gets a ‘warning’ if he or she fails to cross a cone before a beep within the stipulated time. Three warnings during a test marks the end.

Yo-Yo tests have been used in football for ages. The BCCI made clearing the Yo-Yo test mandatory for Indian cricketers in 2016. “Yo-Yo has a lot of acceleration and deceleration and rapid change of direction. Yo-Yo test is probably a far more sport-specific test for cricket, but in recent years there seems to be a preference amongst certain sports scientists to be testing this 2-kilometre time trial with elite-level cricketers,” Matthews says.

Can you ‘game’ the time trial?

Both Matthews and Srinivasan believe there is scope to ‘cheat’ in the Yo-Yo test, but not in the time trial.

“In Yo-Yo, you can cut corners here and there, instead of 20 metres you can do 19.5 metres and it will accumulate over 100 metres at the end of a session. Here nobody can favour anybody. You just need a stopwatch or an electronic timer. It is there for everyone to see. There are lot of ways to skin a cat in Yo-Yo,” Srinivasan says.

Matthews says the Yo-Yo test is “complicated” and needs “too many tools”, which means small gains could be made without being noticed. “Like a person taking the Yo-Yo test may not always cross the line fully.”

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