What to work on during the off-season?

The term ‘Off-season’ is probably not the right term to describe the true concept behind it. The varying cycle of seasons across the globe ensures that no outdoor sport can be played continuously around the year. This weather aspect has led to the existence of an ‘Off-season’ in every outdoor sport. It is usually a 2–3-month extended period in which no major matches or tournaments are played.

Players use this period to prepare for the upcoming season. This is the period when the elite athletes do their behind-the-scenes hard work. Great playing seasons of athletes are often preceded by great off-seasons. Hence, contrary to what the name suggests, the off-season is perhaps the most important part of the year for a player. Readers must be curious to know what exactly the top players do in the off-season and most importantly, what to work on during the off-season? Let us find the answer to these questions.

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The four-month-long monsoon is the off-season for Indian cricketers. One of the biggest advantages of an off-season is that it gives you time to work on certain facets of your game. It is often not possible for players to make major technical adjustments during the season. You can make such adjustments in the off-season, and you can use this time to perfect your technical skills. Cricketers usually have highly focused skill-based sessions with their coaches during this period. They try to fine-tune their game through a combination of drills, shadow practice and knocking etc. You can also have such sessions with your coaches which will help you to improve your game. The off-season time is also ‘ripe’ if you want to experiment or try a new skill (e.g., a new shot or a new delivery). The creation of ‘indoor cricket’ facilities have made this entire process much easier. A few years ago, Shikhar Dhawan worked on his leg-side stroke play in a comparable manner which has helped him to become one of the best batters in the IPL since then.

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Fitness has certainly become a decisive factor in modern-day cricket. The off-season provides you with the perfect opportunity to improve your fitness. Most cricket academies conduct monsoon fitness camps for their players. You can also take the help of professionals such as sports physiotherapists and certified trainers to devise your optimal fitness program. Such an improvement can make your results a whole lot better. Virat Kohli’s special emphasis on gaining lean muscle mass and power during the 2015 off-season enabled him to become the highest six-hitter as well as the orange cap winner in IPL 2016.

Mental training has also become an important part of off-season routines nowadays. Elite athletes are taking help of the professionals (e.g., sports psychologists) to master techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, positive thinking, and visualization. These techniques help the player to perform under pressure. It was meditation that helped Mayank Agarwal to stay focused when he was not getting selected for India despite performing very well. Today, he has four test hundreds to his name as a result. Similarly, you can also use the off-season to master your mind.

Every player has unique needs. You must consult with your coaches, physiotherapists, psychologists etc. to create an optimum off-season program for yourself. Remember that one good off-season can be a game-changer for your career. In extreme cases, you can even use it to reinvent your game completely just like Imran Khan did in the late seventies. Now, you have been equipped with all the information about the off-season. So why stop then? Go ahead and enjoy your off-season.

-Charvak Naik

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