International cricket is all about remaining fit and getting fitter to compete at a level, where the competition is getting stiffer day by day. While few players have managed to get themselves in shape by being self-motivated, others have done it on account of being trolled and body shamed.
There are also many, who have gone from good to bad and then worse when it comes to remaining in shape. In this article, we will discuss the five cricketers, who have inspired people with their body transformations.
Virat Kohli has been the poster boy of fitness as far as the world cricket is concerned. His amazing body with ultimate strength can even challenge any actor or fitness expert. But it wasn’t like that always. Coming from a Punjabi family, Kohli too had a liking for a drink here and there, a butter chicken once in a while and Chole bhature was his favorite dish. So how did it all change?
Kohli started taking fitness much more seriously post an ordinary IPL in 2012. In an interview, he said, “Duncan (Fletcher, India’s coach in 2012) told me once that he feels cricket is the most unprofessional of professional sports.” At that moment Kohli couldn’t understand. But after having a miserable 2012 IPL, the Indian captain realized the importance of fitness.
“The season ended and I was so thankful it was over. I went home, came out of the shower one day and looked at myself in the mirror and said ‘you can’t look like this if you want to be a professional cricketer.’” said Kohli.
“I was 11 or 12 KGs heavier than I am now, I was really chubby. I changed everything from the next morning from what I eat to how I train. I was in the gym for an hour-and-a-half every day. Working really hard, off gluten, off wheat, no cold drinks, no desserts, nothing, it was tough,” he added.
But it was these things that worked as a medicine for the Indian captain and he was moving in the field as if he were flying.
“For the first two months I felt I wanted to eat the bed sheet when I went to sleep because I was so hungry. I was craving taste. I was craving delicious food. But then I saw the results. I felt quick around the field. I would wake up in the morning and feel like I had energy,” said Kohli of his fitness regime and its success.
Now the Indian captain is a pure vegan and still works hard on his fitness to make sure that he remains the fittest man around.
“You need a set pattern of your training, the way you eat, how healthy and fit you need to be. Being fitter made me mentally stronger. It was like a direct connection,” Kohli recalled.
Everybody remembers the one meme which personified (in a bad way) Sarfaraz Ahmed’s fitness during the 2019 World Cup. An overweight Sarfaraz was yawning while wicket-keeping with his hands on his bulging stomach. That could be and is the most shameful picture for any wicket-keeper in cricket. So did Sarfaraz got bogged down by it? Not at all. He rather rose from the ashes.
Having been badly trolled on social media for his fitness and physique in July, the then captain of the Pakistani team returned to the folds of international cricket in September with 9KGs of less flash on his body.
In a picture that surfaced on social media, Sarfaraz was seen posing with his Sri Lankan counterpart Lahiru Thirinmane in a leaner and fitter body. This version of the 32-year old took the fans by surprise and they couldn’t resist themselves from showering praises.
A Pakistani journalist claimed that the Pakistani skipper has sweated hard to achieve this level of fitness. He claimed that Sarfaraz lost almost 10 kilos of weight before getting into the home series against Sri Lanka.
Even newly-appointed head coach Misbah-ul-Haq acknowledged Sarfaraz’s hard work which caused this transformation. After all, he was one who banned Biryani and other unhealthy stuff from the diet plan of Pakistani cricketers.
In the recently concluded PSL, Sarfaraz looked even more fit as he led his side Quetta Gladiators, who won four out of the 10 games but missed out on net run rate from making it to the playoffs.
Next on the list is another Sarfaraz, this one though, a much younger prodigy, who lost his way in the middle but has found out how to return to the shores, where he might garner some success. Sarfaraz Khan, a chubby boy who shone in two Under-19 World Cups of 2014 and 2016, also became the youngest to play an IPL match at 17 years in 2015, when he played for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Chennai Super Kings.
Till 2016, it all went fine until he injured his leg in 2017 and missed an entire season of IPL. His fitness became an issue and he wasn’t able to give his best. He was eventually removed from RCB in 2018 due to lack of fitness.
“I was dropped at Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in 2016 because of my fitness. Virat Kohli told me straightaway while there were no doubts over my skills; my fitness was not letting me get to the next level. He was very honest with me about where I was,” Sarfaraz told ESPNCricinfo.
But then Sarfaraz worked hard and now from being called Panda, he is referred to as Macho Man. “At one point, all my team-mates used to call me ‘panda’ because I used to eat a lot. Now, they’ve started calling me ‘macho’. Actually, very few people know it’s my nickname now,” he said.
But the transformation did not come on its own; Sarfaraz worked hard on his body and mind and restrained his eating habits to get himself in shape.
“I started working out, running, doing a lot of cardio. I gave up sweets and tried to improve my eating habits. I won’t say I became obsessed with fitness, but I just made small changes to my diet. If I had two portions of something, I changed it to one portion, and gradually cut down on my intake of junk food. I felt good not just about my improved fitness but because it helped me score runs as well,” said the 22-year-old.
The connection of form to fitness is quite evident has been accepted by all the players as well. Sarfaraz, having made a comeback to Mumbai, after few seasons at Uttar Pradesh, stuck a triple and a double century back to back in the Ranji Trophy and credited his improved fitness for his rise in form.
From the tall lanky boy of 2008, when his hairs were flying all across his run-up in windy Australia, Ishant Sharma has changed and he has changed for the better. The Zlatan Ibrahimovic look he has adopted has not only made a difference to his skinny fame, making him look dapper, but also impacted his bowling in an amazing way. He now gets injured less and pulls in long spells.
The leader of the pack as far as Indian bowling in Test cricket is concerned, Ishant has gone through a lot of changes in his 12 years and 97 Tests old career. But currently, he is at his best having taken 41 wickets in his last 10 first-class and Test matches.
Ishant credits his fitness and diet routine for it. “Instead of just staying home, doing nothing, I go running for a bit, I go to the gym. For a fast bowler, his body is everything. Also, I have cut down a lot on what I eat. At least twice a month my mom makes aloo ki kachori, which is deep-fried,” Ishant said in an interview to ESPNCricinfo.
“It is very tempting, but I do not eat. She will make kheer, but I will not eat. My parents complain I don’t eat what they want me to. They think you need to eat ghee, drink milk, and eat parathas with ghee to get strong. But I have given all that up,” he added.
The Delhi bowler feels that it’s not about playing the number of matches, rather it is the impact that he would make that count and that is why he is putting in all efforts possible to become a better bowler. “Bowling 138-140 kph for so long after so many years is not easy. It is because of the fitness,” he said giving importance to his fitness routine.