Sweets have been banned in the Sri Lankan dressing room and a protein-rich diet has been recommended for the players, especially during a tournament. The banning of sugar is a standard practice in dressing rooms around the world, but waistlines have become a touchy topic in Sri Lanka ever since the sports minister derided the side for sporting big bellies after their Champions League debacle. Therefore, the new diktat seems to be part of an image or physique makeover.
The Sri Lankan team cricket manager Asanka Gurusinha said that the dietary change is a decision of the team physio Nirmala and physical trainer Nick Lee. “No idea about the biscuits ban (a local newspaper report). Just like other teams, our physio and trainer are managing the dietary requirements of the team. One of the things, they don’t want are sweets in the dressing room.
At the game they have high-protein foods. That’s the change that has been brought about. But it was done before the Champions Trophy. Whatever the food that is coming into the dressing room, is handled by the physio and the trainer. Myself or Sri Lanka Cricket never gets involved in that. Even the head coach doesn’t get involved in that,” Gurusinha said, speaking to The Sunday Express after the team’s training session at Dambulla International Stadium on Saturday.
Asked how the players have reacted to the revised diet chart, Gurusinha, who was part of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup-winning team, replied: “The players are actually very supportive of what the physio and trainer are doing.”
Fitness, of late, has become an issue in Sri Lankan cricket, especially after their Champions Trophy group phase exit. “Sri Lanka is the only cricket team to have players with big bellies and it’s not surprising there are so many drops. Leave alone the catches, how many runs have leaked in the field,” the sports minister was quoted as saying by the local newspapers.
Malinga had responded by saying: “What does a monkey know about a parrot’s nesting hollow?”
The fast bowler got a suspended one-year ban for his remarks, while the sports minister sent a directive not to include any cricketer in the national team with more than 16 per cent body fat. As per Sri Lanka’s sports law, any team that represents the country needs the sports minister’s approval.
Poor catching cost Sri Lanka a knockout berth in the Champions Trophy as Sarfraz Ahmed had been dropped twice and went on to score a match-winning 61 not out in a must-win game against Pakistan. During their 3-2 loss to Zimbabwe also, Sri Lanka had dropped a few sitters, allowing the tourists to chase down a 300-plus total at Galle.
Gurusinha, however, played down the issue. “I feel we have over-talked it, the fitness side. These guys are pretty fit. When you lose games, they talk about a lot about fitness and everything. I think if you test our guys, our fitness standards, we would be pretty close to the Indian team fitness standards. Some may be much better.”
Captain Upul Tharanga also tried to put things in perspective during his pre-match press conference. “We have been doing the fitness without any change. I started in 2005 and no change has happened, but the problem is the last two years we have had lot of injuries. We are without the three main fast bowlers for this series. We are doing all the fitness and dieting and all that, but you can’t do anything when people break down during series.”