Southampton: A team that stays together, plays together. At least that’s what the Indian team management believes as its plans various activities during long tours which has a two-fold gain — to switch off a bit and also enjoy each other’s company off the field which is very important for on-field performances.
The current Indian team also actively take part in bonding sessions, which are carefully planned during an away series. It could be anything from fun games to having a simple meal in a group of four. Before the start of the World Cup, Indian team was seen playing paint ball and now that there is a break before the next game against Afghanistan on Saturday, some bonding activities are planned.
The team members are provided with a weekly activity schedule and they are told to do things which are more organic in nature than forced. “In this Indian team, the bonding sessions have been a part for some years now. It could be some fun games and at times some other activity. Right now, the players are with their families enjoying a break.
Once they come back, some activities are planned,” a senior BCCI official said.
While Virat Kohli is the captain, the team’s ‘Leadership Group’ has three members — Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. At times, in a team of 15, the 12 players are divided into groups of four and they are handled by each of the three senior members.
“It is always insisted that players from different regions hang out together and at least have a meal together. Just for example, Vijay Shankar, newest member of the team will certainly feel more comfortable interacting with a Dinesh Karthik.
Same language, food habits, that is natural. But there are times when Karthik will need to have a meal with another junior player. It’s not something that is forced but it should happen naturally,” the official said.
It’s not only about cricket but seniors are encouraged to speak to the junior players about other aspects of life also where they can take a cue from them. “It could be anything from handling stardom to managing investments. The seniors with their practical experiences could help the juniors out or may be dividing them into groups of three, with the same gym slot. Bonding during some strenuous exercises isn’t a bad idea either,” he added.
Team bonding sessions have been in vogue in Indian cricket for long, only the terminology has changed with changing times. In 70’s, it used to be Sunday Clubs, a concept that was borrowed from English counties where players were told to dress up in a certain way or enact certain scenes. There used to be punishments like walking from one’s own hotel room to the team activity room in underwear with a neck tie tied around the waist. Or else, some were made to apply lipstick and told to dance like ‘Basanti of Sholay’.
At times it would be fun but other times it could be bordering on ragging as some of the old timers recall. It became more of a fun during Gary Kirsten’s time. From the mid 90s till early 2000s, the team bonding activities hardly took place, especially during Mohammed Azharuddin’s era.