Metabolic Demands of Cricket & Conditioning Recommendations
Do Cricket Players need to be Aerobically fit?
There is a lot of standing around in Cricket so, what's the point in loads of running? We have taken a dive into the Cricket Physiology Research and produced this article to offer you some facts and advice on the topic. Without giving away any spoilers, you want to be doing a lot more than your usual 30-minute jog to get ready for the cricket season!
Heart Rate and Metabolic Responses to Cricket Match Play
Heart rate is the number of times the heart beats in one minute and can reflect exercise intensity, with higher intensity exercise leading to higher heart rate responses.
Average heart rate during match play appears to be specific to the role being carried out and the format of the cricket game being played. Studies have shown that during a one-day cricket match, batsmen had a mean heart rate of 152 bpm, medium-fast bowlers had a mean heart rate of 148 bpm, spin bowlers had a mean heart rate of 125 bpm and fielders had a mean heart rate of 116bpm (1).
Focusing more specifically on batsmen during different cricket formats and at different levels, it has been found that international batsmen had a mean heart rate of 149 bpm during T20 match play. The same review found that the mean heart rate during one-day games was 144 bpm in international batsmen and 159 bpm in first-team club batsmen (2). The higher heart rate responses in club players likely reflect the lower fitness levels compared to professionals.
Heart rate is significantly higher in one-day cricket matches compared to multiple day matches (3).
This reflects the more explosive and high-intensity nature of limited-overs matches.
This average heart rate in a range of 140-160 bpm reflects a moderately high mean heart rate response, however, cricket is an intermittent sport with periods of high intensity running/sprinting interspersed with rest periods. This means that the average heart rate reflects the fact that heart rate is higher during high-intensity efforts and lower during periods of rest/recovery (2).
During these high-intensity actions, anaerobic energy systems such as phosphocreatine breakdown and glycolytic energy system production are likely to be responsible for most of the energy provision, with aerobic energy production being predominant during recovery/low-intensity periods and helping re-synthesis of phosphocreatine during these periods (2).
An interesting finding is that heart rate responses during traditional fielding training exceeded the heart rate responses during fielding matchplay (1), showing the potential for fielding drills to be used for conditioning.
Implications of Matchplay Demands for Conditioning and Cricket Training
Steady-state, longer duration cardio can be used to build a solid aerobic base (particularly in cricket pre-season), which can improve the body's ability to use oxygen efficiently and re-synthesise phosphocreatine during the low-intensity recovery periods between high-intensity actions.
However, low-intensity steady-state conditioning is not sufficient to replicate cricket match demands and fails to overload the specific energy systems that will be used during match play.
Therefore, repeated sprint training, sprint interval training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be used to simulate the metabolic and heart rate responses that will occur during match play. HIIT involves repeated high intensity (but not maximal) bouts of short (<45 seconds) to long (2–4 minutes) duration. Repeated sprint training involves all-out, very short duration (~5-10 seconds) efforts interspersed with comparatively longest rest intervals (~40–60 s). Finally, sprint interval training involves longer duration all-out sprints (~20–30 s) with longer (3–4 minutes) rest between each effort (4).
A repeated sprint training protocol with sprints similar in duration to the high-intensity actions in cricket (5-15 seconds) and moderate rest periods (40-60 seconds) is what we would recommend.
Using these methods will help to improve the body’s ability to tolerate high lactate concentrations, improve the body’s buffering capacity (able to resist the drop in pH associated with high-intensity exercise) and improve one’s ability to use oxygen during recovery periods.
High-intensity fielding drills are also an excellent way of overloading the cardiovascular system (1) and inducing desired adaptations whilst also including technical actions that are specific to the game.
Role in the cricket team and format of the game may also influence conditioning needs. Limited overs specialists may want to focus more on high-intensity conditioning drills, whereas those aiming to specialise in longer formats may need to focus more on lower intensity, longer duration conditioning to help prepare them for the psychological and physical demands of multiple day formats. Similarly, spin bowlers may want to focus more on longer intervals and more steady-state conditioning to prepare them for long bowling spells. Fast bowlers and batsmen may benefit more from higher intensity conditioning methods and shorter interval formats.
Improving maximal sprinting speed through speed training, strength training and plyometric training can be another way of reducing fatigue and increasing the preparation for games, by increasing the anaerobic speed reserve (5), since, for a given speed, you are working at a lower percentage of your maximal sprinting speed.
To conclude, if you are a professional cricketer or aiming to optimise your preparation for games you should focus on a combination of steady-state and interval-style conditioning as well as speed training, strength training and plyometrics. However, if you are a recreational player with limited time for conditioning, then a combination of short interval runs at the end of training and high-intensity fielding drills will help to produce adaptations that improve cricket performance.
Sean Sage (@sagesportsci), BSc MSc
1. Vickery, W., Duffield, R., Crowther, R., Beakley, D., Blanch, P., & Dascombe, B. J. (2018). Comparison of the physical and Technical Demands of Cricket Players During Training and match-Play. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 32(3), 821–829. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001528
2. Scanlan, A. T., Berkelmans, D. M., Vickery, W.M., & Kean, C. O. (2016). A Review of the Internal and ExternalPhysiological Demands Associated With Batting in Cricket. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 11(8), 987–997. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2016-0169
3. Johnstone, J. A., Hughes, G., Mitchell, A. C., Ford, P. A., Watson, T., Duffield, R., Gordon, D., Roberts, J. D., &Garrett, A. T. (2017). Accelerometry and Heart Rate Responses of ProfessionalFast-Medium Bowlers in One-Day and Multi-Day Cricket. Journal of sports science& medicine, 16(3), 311–317.
4. Buchheit, M., & Laursen, P. B. (2013).High-intensity interval training, solutions to the programming puzzle. Part II: anaerobic energy, neuromuscular load and practical applications. Sports medicine(Auckland, N.Z.), 43(10), 927–954. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-013-0066-5
5. Sandford, G.N., Laursen, P.B. & Buchheit, M.Anaerobic Speed/Power Reserve and Sports Performance: Scientific Basis, CurrentApplications and Future Directions. Sports Med 51, 2017–2028 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01523-9