“In India, we think that we have to do Olympic lifting, we have to do squats, we have to do this or that exercise. But the number one goal is that you have to be available for all games and net sessions,” says AT Rajamani Prabhu, who trains the Rajasthan Royals and the Karnataka teams but has been in the news after R Ashwin credited him for reviving his flagging body.
So what had Ashwin been missing? “I am not against Olympic lifting,” Rajamani tells The Indian Express. “It is a very good tool to develop vertical force. But if you are not doing it properly… it is from a completely different sport after all. If you do normal exercise with emphasis on explosiveness and safe movements, you will get better result. That is one thing I changed in him.”
Ashwin’s fitness had let him down most glaringly on the big tours of Australia and England in 2018 and 2019, where he couldn’t even get close to making himself available for all games. The injuries had become so chronic and so debilitating that Ashwin even contemplated retirement during that period, as he told The Cricket Monthly in an interview recently.
Rajamani and Ashwin, both from Chennai, first started working together a decade ago. And so important was this particular client to become that Rajamani divides his career into “before Ashwin” and “after Ashwin” phases. He worked with the off-spinner for about three years until Shanker Basu became the India trainer. Basu’s methods, according to Ashwin, were “completely left field.” They also pushed Rajamani to study further in order to upgrade himself.
If Ashwin felt Rajamani had taken the loss of probably his most high-profile client “personally”, he was right. “When big players leave you, it impacts a lot. People say, ‘oh see, Ashwin has left Rajamani.’”
Getting Ashwin back was to turn into a mission for Rajamani. “I don’t think I slept more than five hours a night through those three years. I kept studying, kept improving myself to prove that I’d be the best.
“I kept telling my team that Ashwin will call one day, and that is the day we will have achieved everything. Suddenly one evening Ashwin called. I was in the gym. Before picking up the call, I told my people, ‘you see, Ashwin is going to work with us. This is the day for us.’”