A ‘special’ mask for the Men in Blue

It helps in lowering the user’s oxygen intake and improves endurance

A special mask used by Indian cricketers during practice sessions at Bangalore has evoked tremendous curiosity across the cricketing fraternity. Interestingly, the masks - imported for the national section by team’s specialist fitness trainer Ramji Srinivasan — are used worldwide by mountaineers for high altitude climbing and marathon runners to increase lung capacity. It helps in lowering the user’s oxygen intake and improves endurance. Srinivasan, who has worked with some of the top Indian cricketers at the MRF Pace Foundation and once helped Sachin Tendulkar recover from a major shoulder injury way back in 2006, refused to comment on his choice of masks for training.

A senior official of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said the idea behind using the mask was to increase the players endurance levels before two crucial series, the home series against Australia and away series against South Africa.

“It is important to improve the endurance levels of the players against these two top teams of the world. A few players like Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma have improved upon their oxygen efficiency while some have been able to burn fat,” said the official.

But the move to wear the mask during practice sessions has triggered immediate curiosity and debate in the cricketing fraternity. Former Indian skipper Bishan Singh Bedi said he has doubts about the utility of the masks. “I am not keen on too much reliance on machines, especially when the masks are meant for those doing high altitude sports. It could work for mountain bikers, mountaineers,” he said.

Chinmay Ray, personal trainer of former Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly, said the move was innovative because cricketers worldwide have never used such masks.

“But the success of a new product lies in its result. If someone is experimenting and finds luck, then it will be followed by the rest of the cricketing nations. Let us wait and see the players in the English series.” Meanwhile in Bangalore, the Indian players had a long had a three- hour long high- intensity training session in the morning with main focus on fielding drills on the second day of the three-day training camp.

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