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High-performance delivered!

Published Oct 19, 2021, 10:39 pm IST
Updated Oct 19, 2021, 10:39 pm IST
Hyderabad’s Harrsha reflects on his niche profession as a strength-and-conditioning coach at NCA, Bengaluru
Harrsha with Virat Kohli
 Harrsha with Virat Kohli

The phrase ‘workload management’ has become one of the most talked-about topics in the cricket fraternity. While many assume that workload management deals with fitness only, A.I. Harrsha, former cricketer and current strength and conditioning coach at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), Bengaluru, gives us a better picture.

Harrsha explains that while a fitness trainer may be responsible for weight reduction and general body transformation, a strength-and-conditioning coach primarily deals with improving the high-performance aspects of the athlete, such as the athlete’s speed and athleticism.


He further clarifies, “Workload management is not only about managing or reducing work but also to avoid a sudden spike in any work, which is its most critical aspect. It also involves activities building up to an event (be it cricket or fitness). Through efficient workload management we minimise the spike and reduce the chances of such incidents leading up to an injury.”

Understanding the job

With injury risk reduction the most critical role of the conditioning coaches, he ensures his players are fit and don’t have any niggles. “It’s about high-performance management and making a player perform better on the field for superior results,” he adds.


Harrsha, who’d represented Hyderabad at various levels including Ranji Trophy, was aware even during his playing days of the significance of strength and conditioning for a cricketer. But after suffering from a career-threatening knee injury, he understood how critical S&C was.

“Had I gotten useful inputs about injury management in my playing days, I may have even recovered quickly,” says Harrsha who was recently awarded a Masters in high-performance coaching.

The quarantining challenges

According to Harrsha, who was part of Team India’s recent Sri Lanka tour in July, COVID-19 was one of the most critical aspects for the recent spike in the players’ acute workload. Worse, he says, the time in quarantine adds to the challenges; players and support staff are under pressure owing to the quick turnaround time from the quarantine phase to match day.


“This is also why all the teams are trying to get into the bubble early so that the players have enough time to build up the workload more efficiently. As a result of the mandatory COVID-19 protocol, the team had to spend a lot of time in Sri Lanka before the matches commenced,” adds Harrsha, pointing out that he always tries to maintain optimal and progressive workload build-up for players.

Of course, when players are not used to spending so much time alone in a bubble and not allowed to go outside etc., it takes a toll on their mental health too. Also, while players engaged in regular practice and running sessions have a lot of ground contacts but during quarantine the equation changes.


“Players may not effectively build up the same workload quality as they’re confined indoors. So technically, they’re short of impact-based work, which is one of the primary challenges affecting the optimal preparedness of the athletes before getting them match-ready,” reveals Harrsha, who was also Team India’s strength and conditioning coach when South Africa toured India in September 2019 for the white-ball series.

Seeking the larger picture

According to Harrsha, players’ exposure to inappropriate sessions may lead to injuries. “Athletes play several matches in a season, so my job is to ensure they don’t go through repetitive movements overload and are managed on tight training regimens completely on an individual needs basis,” says the coach.


“Also, players shouldn’t be subjected to stress in the name of training; it can be counterproductive. So I find out where and what is lacking in a player and see if that can be supplemented in the training.”

The S&C coach leaves us with the lesser-known facts of his profession. “There’s plenty of desk and paperwork to be done because there are so many protocols and stakeholders.”

Approaching diversity

Having been a part of Team India and an IPL team (RCB in 2018 and 2019) does Harrsha have a different approach in training the players? “Most of the IPL players are also part of Team India. I know them quite well and have constant interaction with them at the NCA, so there isn’t much dissimilarity,” explains Harrsha, who’s primarily responsible for the seamless transition of a player to be part of the mix.


“But IPL brings up cultural differences as players are from different countries and diverse backgrounds. So the communication process becomes slightly challenging — the franchise has to communicate with the foreign players’ respective boards, their physiotherapists and strength and conditioning coaches regarding their fitness status and injury backgrounds, etc.”

Location: India, Telangana, Hyderabad