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A warm welcome and quality gym time

Greetings from Chennai, India and the first week of my third Indian Premier League campaign. Not the sort of first week I was hoping for, having to make do with fixing my back, but it’s great to be here again. The people here in India really are the friendliest and warmest I’ve ever met on my travels, and they absolutely love their cricket and their cricketers.

I was reminded of that love and passion for cricket when I landed in Chennai. Along with quite a lot of other fans, the guy at customs recognised me, wished me well, said it was good to have me back, and enquired about my back injury! Otherwise, it was a fairly quiet arrival for myself and Imari, as I’m usually with other players, meaning that there’s plenty of media, fans etc.

The trip itself was long, but it helps that the Indian Premier League always flies the players Business Class, which obviously makes it more comfortable. Nonetheless, it was still about eight hours to Dubai, where Imari and I used the five-hour stopover to grab a massage and make full use of the Emirates Business Class lounge. After that, it was another flight of about four hours to Chennai. I made sure I took my sleeping tablet on the flight, to make sure I got some sleep, and it usually helps me adjust to the time change as well, even though Chennai is only three and a half hours ahead of South African time.

Like I said, we managed to sneak in to Chennai this time, and quickly made our way to the team hotel – the Sheraton Park Hotel & Towers – which has become my Indian home. The staff all know me and it’s great to walk into reception and be greeted by my name, with people saying, “great to have you back, Faf.”

Speaking of that, I also managed to chew the ear off the hotel’s head chef, when he popped into the team room on one of my first nights at the hotel. I was watching my teammates taking on and beating the Delhi Daredevils on the TV, with the team owner as my company. Anyway, I was telling the chef that I fancy myself as a budding cook, and wanted to get some tips on making curry – I think he might have some experience in that field! He invited me into the kitchen, so I’ve got something else to occupy my time while I get myself back to full fitness.

Otherwise, I’ve been training hard and spending some quality time in the gym. I’m still on my own, from a team point of view, because my guys have had a couple of away games. So, the plan was always to go hard in the gym while they were away, and make full use of my ‘solitary’ time. Also, to be as strong as possible by the time they come back. The idea is for me to have the muscles strong for when I start getting back into cricket-specific training.

I also haven’t spent much time in the gym over the past two years, because of the fact that I’ve been playing almost constant cricket. I’m feeling really good right now and I’m sure that’s going to be good news for the back as well. I’ve also spoken with Cricket SA physio Brandon Jackson and he reminded me of the fact that I’m still meant to be resting, and that I’m only available to play match cricket in the first week of May. I’ve got a plan to stick to, and I’ve got to make sure I stick to it and not do anything I shouldn’t be doing.

This next week is when I start getting back to cricket training, starting with some batting. But I’ve got to be patient and take it slow. I’ll then build up to doing more intensive stuff, like throwing myself round in the field. Then, about two days before my first game, I’ll try to simulate full match intensity, with everything I might do in a match.

I’ve got to make sure I do this properly. Either way, I’m so, so keen to get back to playing.

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