He came in when the Indian cricket team was “looking for a fitness culture” and former strength and conditioning coach Shankar Basu says his stint has ended with the satisfaction that none of the players would be able to “leave the regimen even if they wanted to”.
The 50-year-old’s four-year tenure ended with the World Cup.
While Kohli was always a “freak” who has not taken a cheat day in the last two years, the Chennai-based professional is most satisfied about the transformation he has brought in the fitness levels of speedsters Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami.
“When I started it was a challenge to transform the culture, now 90 per cent of the team trains very professionally. There will always be one or two in every team who require the extra push,” Basu, whose contract with the Indian team ended on July 30, told PTI.
He also worked extensively with the others including KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Ishant, Dinesh Karthik and Ravichandran Ashwin. The list goes on. Ravindra Jadeja, according to him, is a natural athlete who knows his body well and probably the best fielder in the world.
Basu decided against continuing with the Indian team due to family reasons and says it time for him to move on to the next phase in his life.
“Looking back, I came at the right juncture (in 2015). The Indian team was looking for changes and that was one of the responsibilities thrust on me, to bring about the culture. To be very honest I was very blessed with a set of boys who were looking for this change.
“When I joined I made a pact with myself that I will tirelessly work to bring in the much needed improvisations and culture to augment the team’s needs. I was very fortunate to work with a coaching and support team which allowed me to make independent decisions with regards to training.
“Most of the boys had already worked with me during their under-19 days and it was easy to sell the concepts.”
And having a leader like Kohli in the side helped him in being more effective in his job.
“When you see someone like him, it is difficult not to be inspired,” said Basu.
“His cheat days come once in a blue moon, I have not seen him take one in the last two years. I am telling you that fellow is a freak. There will be months together he would go on and I would force him to take rest.”
The Indian teams of the past were not known for their fitness but under Kohli India has become one of the fittest sides around.
“It is very simple. You hit one and then you hit two. In a team if the captain sets the example everyone starts following, it is tough otherwise. And you cannot paint everyone with the same brush.
“They need to buy in, unless they buy in there is no way you can be effective as a coach. When they started seeing the change, they all started embracing it. Now we have come to a stage, even if they want to leave it, they won’t be able to. it is ingrained in their system,” said Basu.
There were doubts over the longevity of Bumrah with his unusual action and his pace partner Shami also broke down way too often.
While Bumrah has become the number one match-winner in all three formats in the last two years, Shami has worked hard on his fitness and managed to stay injury free.
“It is not only Virat, Bumrah, DK, Rahul, Ishant, Shubman, everybody has bought into it now. But I really enjoyed working with Bumrah and Shami, fast bowlers clocking 145kmph is very heartening to see and you have another whole lot clocking 140 plus. It can’t happen overnight.
He also picked the cases of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kedar Jadhav.
“Bhuvneshwar bowls at 140 kmph consistently, when I came in he was bowling at around 128 kmph. When you talk about spinners, with improved fitness, Ashwin could bowl 95 overs in a match,” said the man during whose tenure, clearing the yo yo test became mandatory.
And there were some gifted men like Jadeja who did not need a lot of attention.
“Look at Jadeja, probably the most natural athlete in the world and the fittest fielder I have seen in my life. He is an enigma. The way he moves on the field, he is easily best fielder by a country mile.
“He is one guy who did things on his own, didn’t spend too much time in the gym. He was a road runner and I understood that very early and let him be. So it was all about horses for courses.”
He can’t travel with the team anymore but is always open to helping the national team.
“At any point if the country wants me I am there for consultation. Let me first relax for a month and then take all life decisions later. I have just had two biryanis at a go so let me enjoy this phase,” Basu quipped.