Pakistan players could face being fined if they fail to meet the strict standards being implemented by former fast bowler Mohammad Akram.
Akram has been working to get the side fighting fit in a month-long boot camp style regime, after being shocked to discover the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had little to no fitness guidelines for its players.
Although the Green Shirts have enjoyed a relatively strong start to the year, they are now determined to tackle what has been a long-running issue, one that has particularly let down their fielding.
New rules, such as disciplining the squad’s most unfit players, aim to get Pakistan in shape for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“We don’t have a fitness culture in Pakistan," Akram explains. Of course, his is not the first boot camp the PCB have used, but they will be hoping it can prove the first successful one, as previously players have ditched the healthy tactics taught to them once the season is over, making real progress problematic.
All squad members have been given nutrition plans to help with their diet and keep them at an ideal weight, while training sessions have included strength training, as well as running seven kilometres up and down the stairs of Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.
Despite having only played nine Tests for Pakistan, Akram is well respected among the players, and can certainly add something to the new coaching line-up, installed last month. Waqar Younis has been appointed head coach, Mushtaq Ahmed as spin coach, Grant Luden as a trainer and fielding coach, and Grant Flower will aim to halt their recent batting struggles against leg-spin.
It remains to be seen how the players will respond to the new standards expected of them, and naturally, the PCB fears alienating them. Unfortunately, it is difficult to be strict with the side as so much is already being asked of them. They are constantly forced to travel, as other international sides have refused to play in Pakistan since March 2009, when terrorists attacked Sri Lanka’s tour bus, killing eight people.
Recent improvements to the situation gave rise to hopes that the international game might be able to return to a cricket-mad nation, but those hopes have now been dashed after Ireland cancelled their tour, scheduled to take place in September, because of last week’s siege on the Karachi airport that left 37 people dead.
Numerous off-field scandals have also rocked Pakistani cricket over the last decade, but the new fitness plans will at least go some way to re-gaining some of the respect that the side have lost, and putting them back as a force on the international stage.