| New Delhi |
September 30, 2020 12:12:47 am
During the lockdown, when there was no clarity about when he would get to play his next match, Sanju Samson got the opportunity to reassess his game and fine-tune his skills. In April, he began preparations with his mentor and former Kerala team-mate, Raiphi Gomez, in Thiruvananthapuram.
The two would spend time together, discussing cricket. During one of those chats, Sanju told Gomez that it was lack of consistency that was preventing his development into a prolific run-scorer. “He had hardly scored anything substantial in the last IPL after one century. It’s something that has been hurting him for a while now. He was worried that he was not able to take the game to the next level,” Gomez told The Indian Express.
Sanju called up Amal Manohar, his college mate at Thiruvanthapuram’s Mar Ivanios College. Manohar – a former national-level athlete before a knee injury ended his career – is now a certified fitness trainer. He has been working closely with other top sportspersons like badminton player HS Prannoy.
Manohar tested Sanju on four parameters — speed, strength, endurance, and agility. The results provided clues to his glaring inconsistency levels in the IPL. “We met in April and after conducting a basic test on Sanju, I realised that he was hardly getting time to recover between matches in the IPL. Simply put, he was carrying the fatigue from one match to the other, which was acting as an impediment,” Manohar explained. He devised a series of exercises that helped Sanju build muscle mass, become stronger, improve his agility, all of which would aid in quicker recovery between matches.
Sanju worked diligently on these aspects and within four weeks, began to notice drastic improvements.
Food for thought
There was another aspect that needed a close watch: his diet. It’s not that Sanju was careless about what he ate. He wanted someone experienced to closely monitor his meals. Gomez was instrumental in hiring Arun, an executive chef at Zam Zam Bun Cafe. “A friend had recommended his name. So, I sent him a menu and asked him to prepare meals for Sanju, and he immediately came on board,” Gomez elaborated. While chalking out the menu, Gomez gave Arun three specific instructions: include carbohydrates in moderation, maximise proteins and eliminate fats.
“It’s a challenge to prepare a menu tailor-made to the needs of sportspersons. I have taken care to ensure Sanju’s fitness is not compromised, while at the same time, there’s a method to improvise so that he doesn’t get bored of eating the same stuff over a period of time,” Arun offered.
Even during the lockdown, Sanju would spend at least five hours in training. Arun would constantly keep in touch with his high-profile client on Whatsapp to apprise him of the menu. Typically, lunch would consist of wheat dalia with mushroom, egg whites, chicken breast, along with watermelon seed salad and mixed fruit. Dinner usually included a portion of kiwi marinated chicken with scrambled egg white, cucumber and jalapeno corn kernel salad. “Sometimes, I would substitute dalia with rice and also include fish on a regular basis since Sanju prefers seafood over lean meat. I would also include at least three types of fruits and snacks like muffins and cookies made from wholewheat flour and not maida,” Arun said.
That the hard work and preparation has been worth it is evident. There’s almost a sense of infallibility in Sanju’s batting in this IPL. Following the two power-packed performances — a 32-ball 74 against Chennai Super Kings and a 42-ball 85 versus Kings XI Punjab — the Kerala wicket-keeper gave a peek into his mindset. “I am more aware of my game now. That apart, I have been working hard on my fitness, diet, training and my strength because my game relies a lot on power-hitting,” he said ahead of Rajasthan Royals’ upcoming encounter against Kolkata Knight Riders.
That Sanju possesses all the attributes of a power-hitter is well documented. But he looks fresher and more at ease with himself than ever before.
Training with tennis balls
Gomez believes that, after the blazing start to Sanju’s IPL season, he can only get better. Gomez knows how demanding this tournament is, given his stints with the Rajasthan Royals, Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Pune Warriors India from 2008 to 2010.
“When I participated in the IPL, it was an eye-opener for me. It gave me an insight into how some of the world-class players train and operate. I realised that your cricketing skills alone will not guarantee you success. It will happen when your diet, fitness and mind are in sync. I am happy that Sanju has used this time during the lockdown to his advantage,” Gomez opined.
During the five months when competitive cricketing activity was suspended, Sanju trained regularly with tennis balls on Gomez’s terrace. Despite the space constraints, the senior pro would replicate different match situations and urge the 25-year-old to demonstrate his power-hitting by keeping a still base. This was done with such devotion that over time, it became part of Sanju’s muscle memory.
“Rahul Dravid had said that if you want to master one shot, you need to play at least 10,000 balls. Apart from fitness training and diet, this is what Sanju has been doing during the extended break. Such an elaborate preparation is essential because only then can you score back-to-back 100s in IPL and still remain fresh because your body needs that energy to fuel you,” the 35-year-old explained.
Gomez said that he has been in touch with Sanju over phone during the IPL in the UAE, but the two don’t talk about anything specific concerning his game. “He has worked hard in these five months and is off to a good start now… I hope he can make it count,” he concluded.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
For all the latest Sports News, download Indian Express App.
© The Indian Express (P) Ltd