COVID-19: Malaysian cricket team turns to shadow practice

KUALA LUMPUR — There’s only so much cardio and strength exercises that national athletes can do at home while the Movement Control Order (MCO) is in force due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it is no different for the national men’s cricket team, who have been doing the same exercises since the MCO was implemented on March 18, with national head coach Bilal Asad keeping an eye on them via Zoom.

But three-time Malaysian Cricket Association (MCA) Player of the Year Virandeep Singh said the coach, a former Pakistan international, had decided to up the ante by getting all the players to take up shadow practice as a way to get that match feeling and retain muscle memory.

“Shadow practice means playing specific shots without actually hitting the ball… We will play in front of a mirror to improve or at least maintain our technique. Usually, the juniors and newcomers will train using this method before stepping into the oval,” he told Bernama today.

“This is a very tough phase. Being an athlete, we really want to be out on the field training and preparing for tournaments. Unfortunately, we are not able to do that now,” said the 2018/2019 Most Promising Sportsman of Federal Territories, adding that they would start doing the shadow practice soon.

Virandeep, who trains an hour daily for five days a week at his home in Bangsar, said he and his teammates had come to accept that this was the best sort of training they could do for now due to the pandemic.

Since he started playing cricket at the tender age of six, the 21-year-old has had a remarkable career, playing his first Malaysian School Sports Council (MSSM) Under-12 tournament at the age of nine and represented the Malaysian Under-16 team when he was just 13.

Virandeep then became the youngest cricketer to play for Malaysia when represented the country at the 2015 Asian Cricket Council (ACC) T20 Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), aged only 15, besides holding the record as the youngest ever T20 International captain in the world (aged 20).

After performing well in the Thailand Tour in February and March, where Malaysia defeated Thailand and Nepal, the national team were supposed to play in the 2020 Malaysia Cricket World Cup Challenge League A from March 16-26 but it was postponed to late September due to the pandemic.