Pakistan cricketers are shaping up, military style

By K. Hussain, IANS,

Karachi : As in India where cricketers are worshipped like Gods, their Pakistani counterparts, too, have the sort of following that the country’s film stars here die for.

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Pakistani cricketers are the country’s biggest celebrities, leaving the popular politicians, actors and scientists far behind.

Showmen like Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi follow the sort of lifestyle which is similar to that of football super stars in Europe and South America, like David Beckham or Ronaldo.

But not these days.

Go to Kakul — Pakistan’s premier military training facility nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas — at this part of the summer you can see the high-profile cricketers training like novice soldiers.

Led by captain Shoaib Malik, around two dozen national players are attending a conditioning camp at Pakistan Army’s Physical Training Institute at Kakul in a bid to sharpen up for September’s Champions Trophy.

Cricketers are generally used to five-star hotel facilities even during training sessions, but Kakul offers no such luxury, not even room service.

According to a team official, the players have to get up at seven for a group breakfast and then the regimen begins. The players are divided into two groups with one doing weight training at the gym while the others going through physical conditioning under the expert supervision of army trainers. The roles are swapped later in the day.

There is a lunch break and later at 3.30 and the players gather again for more training till dusk.

But before the strenuous training sessions begin, the players are encouraged to share ideas at the breakfast table that is generally reserved for trainee army officers.

“It’s a good way to make our players more disciplined,” says Pakistan team manager Talat Ali.

“By getting up early in the morning and sitting together at breakfast, the players get an opportunity to exchange ideas,” he added.

Talat is confident that his players will achieve the primary target of the training camp: peak fitness.

“The camp is very well-organised and is conducted by the best experts. I am sure these boys will go back from here fitter and stronger.”

Some of the players have even showed a flair for rock climbing and the instructors have obliged them by making it a part of the work-out.

“The best part about this camp is that the players are enjoying what they do. The weather here is great and I am sure we will keep coming here often,” concluded Talat, a former Pakistan Test cricketer.