Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - How New Zealand beat the heat in the UAE. New Zealand qualified for the T20 WC final for the first time.
New Zealand qualified for the T20 WC final for the first time.
Two weeks out from New Zealand's opening match at this T20 WC, the squad trained during the hottest part of the day at their preparation camp in Dubai. Head coach Gary Stead called the sessions at 2pm in 38-degree heat as “shock therapy” for his players, who were being readied for an unforgiving schedule in the unforgiving heat of the UAE.
After all, New Zealand's last three Super 12 games were crammed inside five days, and were set to be afternoon fixtures across three different cities. It was the most challenging schedule for any team in the tournament.
Perhaps only Oman and Sri Lanka came close in that regard, but Oman played all their games at one venue in Al Amerat, and Sri Lanka's four games within a week spanned only two cities and featured three evening games. Moreover, the most hectic spread for both these teams was scheduled at the beginning of their campaigns, unlike for Kane Williamson's side.
That New Zealand are in the final of a World Cup, that's being played across Asian conditions, is a testament not only to their skills and adaptability but also to how they have kept themselves going in the heat. It was a sprint of an itinerary right in the middle of their campaign, and no wonder they have a sprinter Olympian in Chris Donaldson, their Strength and Conditioning Coach who's kept the players in good stead.
Donaldson, who represented New Zealand at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, has been with the Black Caps since 2011 and is known for his tough training programmes. Kolkata Knight Riders bowler Prasidh Krishna once called his quarantine training a “slight nightmare”, while his fellow bowling colleague at the franchise, Sandeep Warrior, felt that even his “hair was sore” after the workouts. But for Donaldson here in the UAE, working with the New Zealand team who come from much cooler climes, the focus wasn't just on training.
At this World Cup, each New Zealand player has downed at least 10 litres of water on match days. That's about 6.8 litres more than what the World Health Organization recommends for a sedentary adult male in a temperate environment.
While hydration on match days forms a crucial part of a players' fitness regime, it is not as simple as allocating a quota of fluids to be drunk — a lot more goes into making sure that Donaldson gets it right game after game.
The hydration starts pre departure, with players drinking recommended amounts of fluids before boarding the team bus and then on it. These hydration drinks are a mixture of water and electrolytes.
On arrival at the venue, the first thing players do is weigh themselves.
A refractometer is then used to calculate their hydration levels. (A refractometer is a simple laboratory instrument that's used to measure the specific gravity of urine, i.e. comparing the density of urine to the density of water. A higher value usually indicates dehydration in otherwise fit athletes.)
Once it's established that the players aren't dehydrated from their last match or activity, they proceed to train and continue to have drinks through their warm-up and prepare for the toss. Supplements such as gels and electrolyte sports drinks are given to the players before they take the field. It must be noted that these aren't cookie-cutter drinks that are made in large quantities and given to the players.
Instead, these hydration drinks are customised to the requirements of each individual. How it's done is an elaborate process in sports science, and for New Zealand the process started during the most recent home summer. At the time, Donaldson and New Zealand Cricket (NZC) collaborated with the Otago University for “sweat testing” of every player. It was used to gauge players' individual hydration needs and determine the best fluid options to use.
To understand how, it's important to start with why the body temperature increases for athletes. During a physical activity, the metabolism rate picks up and the contracting muscles at work release large amounts of heat. This is dissipated into the environment with the help of 2-3 million sweat glands located on the skin. Usually the increase in body temperature is minimal but when intense physical activity is combined with high ambient temperatures, the body temperature can rise by up to 2-3 degrees. Inability to contain this can lead to exertional heat illness, which is most common in soldiers, industrial workers and athletes.
Guptill battled the heat during his 93 against Scotland.
Sweating is how the athlete's body will cool down, but it also leads to loss in water and electrolytes like sodium, which is lost in the biggest quantity. Hydration replenishes the body with these and sweat testing helps formulate personalized fluid and electrolyte replacement recommendations.
Sweat testing involves measuring the composition of sweat along with the sweat rate (amount of fluids lost per hour). These two factors not only depend on ambient temperatures, humidity and intensity of the exercise but also vary a lot across individuals. Which is why a fixed drinking regimen for all players in a team can be dangerous.
Back to New Zealand. With individual needs calculated, the hydration drinks are then run over to the players during the game. Each player has his own specific labeled drinks in the drinks bags. During the game, the 12th men and trainer are stationed around the boundary and they constantly service players with these, particularly bowlers and the keeper.
“I must mention the 12th men who do an outstanding job servicing the guys on game day and in around matches,” Donaldson says. “The key goal for me is to try and stay ahead of the game and prevent dehydration for players, which can lead to a drop in their performances.”
At the change of innings – and the “10-minute change over is not long!” Donaldson stresses – all players receive pre-made protein shakes. The opening batsmen are prioritized to ensure that their needs are met and they are ready to go.
Those who have played sapping roles in the first innings – for example, Martin Guptill against Scotland – are weighed once again during the innings break. It's also something that's done for every single player after the game and the difference in weight pre- and post-game helps determine the replenishing target.
The weight loss for players during the game should generally not exceed about 1-2 percent of body mass. If more than that is lost, it indicates that the player didn't consume enough fluids and must drink more the next time. If weight loss is less than that, it indicates that the player has had more fluid intake than was necessary and must cut down on hydration the next time.
The difference in weight loss can be easily converted into replenishment targets. About 1kg of weight loss equals nearly 1 litre of sweat output, and New Zealand players drink 1-1.5 litres of water to make up for it.
The players then have protein shakes and head to the ice bath.
During New Zealand's most hectic five days at this T20 WC, Donaldson reveals what helped the team sail through without injuries. “Instead of training we had active recovery on the days between games. There was no real change in the regime other than a focus on rest and recovery between matches,” he says. “The high standards of conditioning that the players set themselves allows them to deal with these environments.”
Donaldson was also faced with the challenge of acclimatizing two batches of New Zealand players before the World Cup: one who were playing at the IPL in the UAE and the ones who travelled to Pakistan.
“I was in regular communications with all players assessing how they are and if they have specific needs or issues,” Donaldson said. “The players are very self sufficient these days and well aware of the expectations in this area. They all have their own training programmes which they follow. Communication is the key and is therefore regular and open.
“The non IPL players were acclimatized four weeks out from the tournament in Pakistan originally before being based in Dubai. They were all following set programmes during this time.”
In hindsight, not everything was bad about New Zealand's schedule. They started their campaign on October 26, about nine days after the tournament kicked off and the last out of all teams, but it helped the players get accustomed to the heat in the UAE, know their bodies and the hydration requirements better – and turn up much better prepared for the games.