Published: 14th March, 2019
Lead Strength & Conditioning Coach Darren Veness says Surrey are in the best possible physical shape ahead of their pre-season tour of Dubai.
After guiding the squad through their winter training programme since their return to the Kia Oval in November, Veness believes the professional squad are almost ready for the start of a grueling six-month season.
Surrey travel to Dubai for their annual pre-season tour on Thursday and will play two 50 over games, two T20s and one four-day match in the United Arab Emirates before returning home to face Durham MCCU in their final warm-up for Essex on 11th April.
With matches to be introduced alongside both skills and fitness work in the searing heat of the Middle East, Veness is excited to see how the group cope with the demands.
He said: “The boys are definitely ready for it. Physically this is the best place they have been in and it’s amazing to watch them going about their daily business. It brings a lot of new variables being out in Dubai; we’re going to start playing matches for starters.
“That means the intensity has ramped up and when you add in the usual Dubai climate, my focus will now be on quality rather than the volume. They’re going to keep making improvements and moving forward throughout the season.”
It has been a long, patient process to ensure the players have arrived at this moment at their current levels of fitness. It began in November with a focus on conditioning.
Following Christmas, more aspects are then introduced into the training programme as Veness points out: “The shift in overall stress and workload in the new year comes from the addition of skills work that they do.
“I don’t reduce my Strength & Conditioning procedure in the six-week block between Christmas and the February half term but we do significantly ramp up the skills with Vikram Solanki and Richard Johnson to get them to a level that means they could cope with the loads of a four-day game.
“By the time they get to the February half-term, we’re looking at all the variables including their data and body language to make sure I’m not impacting on the skills workloads. If I am then that’s where I make a reduction because skills is our main focus by this point.
“The easiest way to measure our conditioning is with the yo-yo test, something similar to the bleep test but with an in-built 10 second break which is very applicable to cricket. Nobody likes to be tested, this isn’t exam time at school, so by keeping it means we take the testing mentality out of it and can react accordingly.
“Once we hit the February half-term break, I ask them to take almost the full week off without any activity so that they can totally decompress.”
Following that week off, it was less than two months until the first four-day match of the year; the Champion County match against an MCC XI. That meant a greater focus on building the endurance required for a testing full four days of cricket.
“When we returned at the end of February, the marquee was ready and it meant we could get outside,” said Veness.
“Lee [Fortis, Head Groundsman] and his staff have done an amazing job to get it as firm as it could be. Being on grass means that the bowlers are now working even harder and I start to reduce my strength and conditioning plan.
“We’ve also done another yo-yo, had a look at their skinfolds but the massive improvement on last year is the repeat sprintability. We’ve got a squad average of around 2400 metres for a yo-yo so I’m very relaxed about where they are at the moment in terms of being ready for the season.”