Cow Corner

What really goes on at World Cup training

Cow Corner

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As Graham Gooch once said while hurling relentless throw-downs with sadistic relish, 'you are only as good as your last net', but what really goes on in the endless training sessions at a World Cup? Cowers investigated.

England's ill-fated campaign at the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies was notable more for the players' off-field exploits than their on-field ineptitude, and the papers were awash with tawdry tournament tales.

But cricketers are professional athletes, so surely every training session is a gruelling recipe of Goochy's dumbbells, David Saker's star jumps, Andy Flower's burpees and Richard Halsall fartleks - right?

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And England are not the only ones whose training methods have been scrupulously examined by Cow, who was fortunate enough to test the catering facilities with Jesse Ryder, the hammocks with Chris Gayle and the local barbers with Kevin O'Brien.

There used to be a time when having a 20-minute swipe and a nonchalant trundle in the nets would suffice, after a cooked breakfast and before a steak 'n ale pie for lunch.

But now there appears to be no end to the new fangled methods of training, from bikram yoga and tailored pilates, to throwing poles and assorted varieties of balls, ice baths, saunas, and having 12 different types of massages.

West Indies are renowned for their laid-back, 'I'll have a net later after my nap' approach, while England run themselves into the ground with fielding drill after fielding drill, followed by a final fielding drill.

India and Pakistan do less fielding drills and more 'hold the pose' cover drive sessions, while the Netherlands love nothing more than a jaunty stint of football with Australia trumping that with some 'touch' rugby (apart from when Matty Hayden used to have the ball in previous tournaments).

The following are examples which Cowers has found over the course of the World Cup thus far of less traditional training than is cited in any MCC coaching manual, Geoffrey Boycott Masterclass video or Bob Woolmer handbook.

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Harbhajan Singh, not renowned for his whole-hearted application on the training field, eyes David 'keg on legs' Boon's phenomenal drinking record, only with chilled isotonics. At the point of this photo being taken, Harbhy had strapped into the second row of his cool box, with his empty bottles casually strewn across the outfield.

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Ricky Ponting is nicknamed 'Punter' for two reasons: he loves plundering the remaining 50 per cent of his match fees (after his customary slow over-rate fines) on horses, and he positively thrives in his side's hugely competitive pre-match Aussie Rules fixtures.

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Kevin Pietersen is patiently taught how to bowl off spin by Adarsh Hosahalli Shivalingaiah, whose follow through is as long as his name. England's new method of training their players is to haul in local U19 cricketers to add some expertise.

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Australia, believe it or not, rehearse their sledging techniques on a near daily basis: here is Ricky Ponting delivering his 'that's hitting all three stumps, ump!' regulation shout to a reluctant and slightly bewildered Brett Lee. 

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New Zealand have an extensive repertoire of backroom staff, most of whom are blonde female masseuses - here Daniel Vettori gets his post-warm up rub down and looks to be pretty 'lost in the moment'.

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Graeme Swann would be proud! 'The sprinkler' may be more associated with a slightly camp dance, reportedly the brainchild of Paul Collingwood and carried further by the ebullient England off spinner, but West Indies use it to hose down their batsmen and keep them cool during stints in the nets.

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Now the ICC regulations do not specify that a batsman must only use one bat - Canada's Harvir Baidwan wields what he is patenting as the 'double-edged sword' in his net session in Colombo - it sends HotSpot into one almighty muddle.

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Now Australia coach Tim Nielsen has been imploring his side to occupy the crease better, but perhaps Shane Watson took the principle too far as he pitched his canary yellow tent overnight on the wicket in Colombo. Here, Ponting looks to wake the beach bum all-rounder from his Andrew Symonds-esque slumber. 

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And finally, in a desperate bid from England fielding coach Halsall to improve his side's catastrophic catching thus far in the tournament, the cricketing sage introduced what he likes to call the 'flare dodger' technique to snaffling high catches - disconcerting it may be, but it sure tests the resolve of even the most confident of bucket hands. 

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So how did Bangladesh and Zimbabwe fare today, you may be asking yourself? Well, let's just say that long-suffering coaches Jamie Siddons and Alan Butcher were apparently locking horns with litre tankards of whisky by midday UK time.

New Zealand obliterated Zimbabwe by 10 wickets with such consummate ease that openers Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill were openly discussing dinner plans by the third over.

Meanwhile, West Indies wrapped up a nine-wicket win before Chris Gayle even had time to flick a bead of sweat off his bandanna in what was a truly epic capitulation with the bat from Bangladesh.

Placards pre-emptively boasting of a Tigers win were hurled onto the playing field after Shakib Al Hasan's side were skittled for a disgustingly paltry 58, and it took West Indies just 12.2 overs to disdainfully knock off their target.

After Ireland had done so much to renew the lifespan of international cricket's second tier (you take the point if this term is extended to Bangladesh), the two sides' epic implosions represent a sorry set-back for the resurgence of the associates.

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SHOT OF THE DAY: McCullum did his best impersonation of a less volatile, less aggressive and less attacking batsman for most of his knock, before losing the will to live and plundering an epic 96m blow over cow corner for six.

STAT OF THE DAY: The West Indies win over Bangladesh lasted just 187 deliveries and is the second shortest game in World Cup history - the first with a positive result was 140 balls between Canada and Sri Lanka back in 2003.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "I hope no one has me of Franky (James Franklin) in their Fantasy Cricket teams - so far we've had two catches, one wicket and zero runs between us!" (Scotty Styris sounded all humble and self-deprecating until he started gloating about his side's 10-wicket win.)

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "On the one hand we have got Ireland who are an associate cricket nation, and on the other hand Bangladesh - a Test playing nation (granted Test status by winning just one game against a major nation). Bangladesh hold a greater status on the world stage, but just look at their standards thus far..." (Neo posts an inquisitive query to the ICC regarding the status enjoyed by Bangladesh, and by Ireland - let us know what they say!)

COMING UP: It's a big one! Just as the tournament desperately needs a decent encounter to revive it from petering out amid a flurry of one-sided farcical clashes, Sri Lanka host Australia in Colombo. Both sides will be jostling for positions with the quarter-finals in sight, and in Ponting (pictured below, refusing to reveal his side's plans) and Kumar Sangakkara we have two of the most competitive international skippers around.

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