An Exclusive Interview with Pakistan Fitness Trainer David Dwyer by Abdul Habib 12th July 2010 I'd like to thank David Dwyer for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this exclusive interview with Cricistan.com and especially for his in-depth answers and frank responses. Hopefully all you Cricistanis will enjoy this EXCLUSIVE too... Cricistan.Com: We don't know a lot about what you did before joining the Pakistan team, could you fill us in. David Dwyer: Sure, I was working with Rugby players. I was based in Sydney and working with the New South Wales Academy and Professional Academy. I also used to help out with the reserves when the senior team was on tour. Cricistan.Com: How did you learn about the job with the Pakistan Cricket Board? David Dwyer: My contract with the Waratahs was coming up for negotiation and I had nothing holding me in Australia at the time. It was around then that I bumped into Geoff Lawson at the Sydney Football Stadium. He mentioned to me that he'd be interviewing for the job of head coach of the Pakistan cricket team. Geoff told me that from what he'd seen the training and fitness levels of Pakistani cricketers weren't up to scratch, so as part of his deal with the PCB he wanted to bring an Australian fitness trainer with him. Cricistan.Com: What made you want to move from Rugby to Cricket and specifically to Pakistan Cricket? David Dwyer: There were a lot of reasons. I'd previously dealt with club cricket so the challenge of joining an international team was something I was really looking forward to. On a personal level, I was looking to go out of my comfort zone and develop my own skill set. Although Rugby is my favourite sport, I didn't want to be pigeon-holed as just a Rugby trainer. I saw the opportunity of working with a team that has so much potential as a real challenge. Cricistan.Com: What's the difference between working with power based Rugby players and Cricket players who are probably more finesse based? David Dwyer: Every sport that I've seen is power and speed based; I don't think there's any sport that doesn't involve that. When we're talking Rugby v Cricket then the main difference is that Rugby is a contact sport and is therefore a lot more physical. Also the schedules are very different too, cricketers play a lot more games than Rugby players do so you don't have as much time to work with cricketers in between series and games. We try and make sure that the players utilise any downtime between series and games. The main difference between Australian and Pakistani players is that the players here don't have a training base like we do back in Australia. In Australia players start training a lot younger and their basic training system is implemented a lot earlier. Aussies athletes in the international team are using very advanced techniques and training is a part of their lifestyle. Whereas here in Pakistan (in the past) a little bit is done here and there and then the players are patched up and sent out onto the field at a Domestic level. Cricistan.Com: What I meant was that in Rugby, players are trying to bulk up and get big but that's not the focus for a cricketer. David Dwyer: The difference for me has been that I don't spend my time trying to put 20 to 30 kilos on a player, instead we concentrate on other stuff. But there are some guys, like Mohammad Aamer, who desperately need to put on some extra weight. Aamer puts a lot of stress on his frame when he's regularly clocking over 145k's and if he doesn't strengthen his body then he risks breaking down again like he has previously. Cricistan.Com: You've mentioned Aamer and I'd add Talha's name as well. What do they need to do to achieve the perfect fast bowlers physique so that they can maximise their power and speed as well as not put too much stress on their bodies? David Dwyer: It's not just those two, it's all the fast bowlers in Pakistan. The amount of domestic and international cricket they play in a 12 month period is huge. Baseball pitchers can pitch up to 100 throws in a game but our guys can bowl between 60 to 120+ deliveries per test innings, that's a lot of stress on the shoulder joint. We have to concentrate on the shoulder joint and work hard to make sure it stays fit and strong because there's so little recovery time between games. We also focus on the fast bowlers core stability to make sure that they're strong in that region which will help their back. We try and put weight on some of them to help deal with the stresses on their bodies and that also provides them with power and strength running in. Cricistan.Com: You've mentioned Baseball and Rugby and said that they play far fewer games than cricketers. Do you think the long nature of cricket games (upto 5 days) and the frequency of games is damaging our cricketers, especially the fast bowlers? David Dwyer: I certainly wouldn't mention baseball as they play 180 games a year but in rugby they only play around 30. The difference in rugby is that it's a full contact sport, so no doubt you are going to get damages there. But given the unusual action of bowling and the stress and pressure that puts on the body, there's no doubt that the number of games played each year will have an effect on players bodies and that they must be struggling to cope. Cricistan.Com: You've already mentioned that the Pakistani players were 5 to 10 years behind their Australian counterparts when it came to physical training levels and techniques. How did you try and change their thinking? David Dwyer: The main thing that I'm trying to get them to understand is that their body is their career, if they don't look after their bodies and stay in top physical shape then they won't have a career. I try to teach them to be really strict about their fitness and to be diligent and to pay attention to fine detail. I just want them to understand that without proper training they can't be at their best and maintain the fitness levels that are expected in the modern game for more than 3 or 4 years. Cricistan.Com: What are your 3 golden rules for the Pakistan team? David Dwyer: They were so far behind other teams when I first arrived that if they want their fitness to catch up to the rest of the world, then they have to make the most of every day. My 3 rules would be; Rule 1: No Excuses. Never give an excuse as to why you can't train, just train. Rule 2: Train Hard. When time permits, go as hard as you can because you're still playing catch up with everyone else. Rule 3: Live It. You're an athlete, training has to be part of your lifestyle. You have to implement fitness training into your training schedule. Fitness training is not just for when you join the Pakistan camp, it should be part of your daily routine. Cricistan.Com: I've spoken to quite a few players about their fitness and their response is that it's easy to keep on top of fitness regimes and training schedules when you're in a big city but not when they go back to their small towns or villages. For a lot of players there's a serious lack of access to gym facilities and to the correct foods needed to keep up a proper diet. David Dwyer: I agree it's a major problem. I've spent 3 years trying to convince the PCB and I think they're finally starting to understand that they need to be more pro-active about this. There are some mitigating factors such as the lack of resources due to teams not touring Pakistan but this sort of thing should've been in place years ago. Having said that we can't absolve the players of all responsibility, if a player lives in a relatively big city then there's no excuse for them not to find a local gym that they can use. The same players will turn the world upside down searching for the perfect bat but they won't put in the same effort to find a suitable gym. They need to understand that this is their own career that they're being asked to get fit for, it's in their own interest. Cricistan.Com: If players from big cities aren't training then they have no excuse because the facilities are right on their doorstep. But what about the players who go back to a rural village where there is nothing for them? David Dwyer: That's a very valid point and I've been pushing really hard for the PCB to send gym equipment to different parts of the country. Players need to have somewhere relatively local where they can continue with the fitness work that they start at the training camps. The PCB is planning to create 5 major cricket academies (like the NCA in Lahore) in the 5 major regions of Pakistan. This is a positive first step because it will mean that players who attend those areas for domestic tournaments will have somewhere to continue training when they aren't at the NCA in Lahore. Cricistan.Com: Were all the Pakistan cricketers years behind their Australian counterparts or are there some players who would fare well in a comparison? David Dwyer: I don't like leaving people's names out but there's a core of players with very good athletic ability. Umar Gul, Fawad Alam and Younis Khan's fitness levels are through the roof. They can run for days. Salman Butt has done a huge amount of work recently and Mohammad Yousuf has trained very hard with me over the past 3 years. Misbah is a great trainer, so is Kamran Akmal. Cricistan.Com: Would you say those three are comparable to an Australian or South African cricketer? David Dwyer: Absolutely. Especially in terms of running. Sometimes I sit there and think to myself that I'd love to see Umar Gul with an extra 5kg's bowling alongside the likes of Bollinger and Johnson. He may be quite a few kilograms lighter than those guys but he could generate a lot of power from being able to run as fast as he does. Getting Pakistani cricketers to that level of fitness isn't easy because they have to fight their nature and their upbringing. They aren't taught the right things to do whilst they're growing up so their training base isn't there. That's unless they're very, very educated or they're willing to go that extra mile. Younis Khan would be a good example of that and someone like Mohammad Yousuf. Cricistan.Com: Mohammad Yousuf gets a lot of criticism over his lack of fitness, what are your views on MoYo? David Dwyer: Actually Yousuf is one of my best trainees, he's constantly nagging about his new program and when he can next come in for training. If we're out in a restaurant he talks to me about the food he should eat and what effect it will have, he asks me what he shouldn't eat. He's very interested in eating what's good for him. Yousuf is one of the guys that we achieved a lot with. The reason people have a negative view about his fitness might be to do with the fact that he can't throw overarm because of a shoulder condition he's had for years... Cricistan.Com: ...what's the reason behind him not being able to throw overarm in the field? David Dwyer: He had a separation in his right shoulder about 7 years ago and since then he's had a lot of difficulty with it. However he's now changed his attitude towards fielding and thinks it's a lot of fun. I would hope that fans have noticed the difference in his fielding over the last year or so, he's made huge efforts and we've achieved a lot with him. Cricistan.Com: Yousuf's definitely improved in that department and it's good to see that he's interested in his diet. In our culture we cook a lot of things with Ghee (butter) which isn't the healthiest thing in the world. Does that cause you problems? David Dwyer: The biggest problem in the Pakistani diet is the amount of oil that is used when cooking. I just can't understand it. I've told them to cut out the oil in the NCA kitchen but they don't seem to have an alternative. They've never cooked without it. Cricistan.Com: Do you think we're missing a top quality nutritionist? David Dwyer: There's no doubt about that but there's more to it. We need someone to look over the shoulder of the people preparing the meal to make sure they're cooking food the way they've been instructed to!! Cricistan.Com: There needs to be more thought put into employing suitable cooks for the cricket academies and the cricket stadiums, it's all about attention to detail. David Dwyer: There's no doubt about that. We also need to look into alternative foods, the current cooks are only interested in cooking Pakistani food. One of the biggest challenges we face is trying to get players interested in eating a variety of foods in different styles and from different countries. Again we're back to the basics, it's something that you have to be brought up with. However we should ensure that the players do enjoy their meals because if they're not enjoying their food then it will play on their minds and they won't be fully focused on their training. You have to give a little to gain a little, it's a delicate balance. Cricistan.Com: Speaking of food, what's your favourite dish and have you been sightseeing? David Dwyer: I can't go past chicken, at the NCA we get served it twice a day. I haven't had many opportunities to go travelling except with the cricket team but on the occasions that I've been to Abbottabad and Bhurbhan the view has been stunning. If time permits I'd love to go trekking through the Himalayas. One image that stands out amongst several in my mind was when we were flying from Lahore to New Delhi and we flew past Mount Everest on a crystal clear day. That was extraordinary. Cricistan.Com: Pakistan is on many countries no-go lists. How have you found the reception when you go there? David Dwyer: When it comes to being welcomed, the people of Pakistan are without peer. Even the poorest of people will go out of their way to say hello, smile and not only offer you whatever they have but they give it to you with a smile. It obviously has its problems but I'd prefer to concentrate on the positive aspects of the country, its people and its cricket. Cricistan.Com: Do you feel vulnerable or on a personal level does it feel safe? David Dwyer: There are times when I stop and think about it but I try to use a bit of common sense when travelling around. We're not in Pakistan a lot these days and hopefully things will improve soon. But I've never felt seriously in danger. Cricistan.Com: You've now spent 3 years in Pakistan. How much truth would you say there is to the myth that Pakistan has fast bowlers on every street and that the country is brimming with cricketing talent? David Dwyer: Mate, it's no myth. The only thing preventing this country from taking over world cricket is the lack of a properly structured and competitive junior program. A program that instills the basics from an early age. There are some other things such as the lack of access to gym equipment and that logistically there's not as many grounds. But it's scary to think how strong Pakistan cricket would be if it had the sort of support structures we have in place in Australia. Cricistan.Com: I've always thought that if players like Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Abdul Razzaq had been born in Australia, then with their talent they would've been world class all-rounders. David Dwyer: But they're already world class all-rounders. Cricistan.Com: What I mean is that they've vastly under-achieved in comparison to the level of cricketing ability that they have. David Dwyer: There's so many players in the world game who've underachieved. At the end of the day it's down to each player and only they can decide how hard they want to work. Cricistan.Com: Who are the next fittest players after the 3 (Fawad, Younis and Gul) we always hear about? David Dwyer: Those 3 can run forever and Alam and Younis are quick across the ground too. Whilst someone like Shoaib Malik can't run as fast over long distances he possesses incredible speed and now his hard work recently has built on his speed and increased his strength. We've made good gains with Sohail Tanvir and Rao Ifthikar is an exceptional runner. Misbah's strength and fitness programme is very good for his age whilst Kamran Akmal's fitness has to be top notch to allow him to both open the innings and keep wicket too. Cricistan.Com: In the 3 years you've been with the team, which player has improved the most fitness wise? David Dwyer: Fawad Alam stands out, he's one of the most all-round athletic guys in the team. His core stability is very good, his speed is exceptional, his fitness is improved and his strength has increased. However he is one of those guys that has to be pushed to add a bit of weight, some of these guys are scared of putting on extra weight whilst doing repetitions in the gym. Cricistan.Com: Alam's a great player but he struggles to clear the boundary rope. Are you doing any work to give him more power? David Dwyer: Why don't you look at his positives as a fielder and as a batsman, he has great skill in finding the boundary rope. He bats down the order with Afridi and Razzaq who can do the hitting whilst he rotates the strike. Plus when he needed to hit sixes he hit 3 in a row in Toronto and maximised our total. Cricistan.Com: Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Fawad Alam. But as a fan I believe that we should work on his power so that he has the option of clearing the boundary rope if he wants to take it. David Dwyer: He has been given a program to help his hitting, he practises a lot of mock hitting so work is definitely being done on that. Cricistan.Com: Are there any frustrating players whom you think will never get fit no matter how much work you put into them? David Dwyer: If a player isn't getting fit then it's because we don't have anything below us, we don't have any grassroots fitness initiatives that work with us and support what we're trying to do. We should have qualified fitness instructors at the domestic level whose job it is to make the players fit. When a player arrives at an international training camp then he should be turning up fully fit and ready to go, it should be our job to hone a players fitness to international standard. For example when players arrive at an international camp in Pakistan, they arrive to become fit, they're not already fit! It shouldn't be our job to make players fit. Imagine what we could do with 15 players who turned up to the international camp fully fit and ready to go through advanced training techniques! Cricistan.Com: The player that Woolmer, Lawson and yourself have all tried to get fit was Shoaib Akhtar. How much time have you had to work with him? David Dwyer: We've had various amounts of time. When you have him and he's focused then he achieves really good results but in a way he's a lot like Pakistan Cricket. It's a turbulent wave and you've got to be careful with him because, for whatever reason, he goes through the ringer a lot. Cricistan.Com: Have you sat him down and spoken to him about how his body building is getting in the way of his fast bowling? David Dwyer: Absolutely. He's top heavy and I think he knows that. It's something that happened prior to my arrival for the T20 WC in 2007. I didn't see Akhtar till the India tour and we weren't experimenting then, we were just making sure he was strong enough to play. Cricistan.Com: Why do u think he has such a problem keeping his fitness levels constant. I don't think he has ever completed a test series without getting injured. David Dwyer: It's not just him, it's the country as a whole. You ride waves. The interest levels rise and fall sharply, you need to roll with it and get the most you can while the interest level is high. Cricistan.Com: You're right, it's not just Akhtar. I think there's a culture in the Pakistan team where a player who becomes a regular starts to see his spot in the team as a birthright rather than something he has to work hard and stay fit in order to keep. That's why they get so upset when they're dropped, even if it's for under performance. David Dwyer: I'd say that in the last 3 years, I've ridden the dropped players really hard. So when they get picked again they're fit and get good results. But I agree that rather than pointing the finger of blame at themselves they point it elsewhere. Cricistan.Com: Is it too late for Akhtar to make a sustained comeback? David Dwyer: It's not beyond him but you've got to really want it. I think it's become a lot harder now because there's a lot more competition for places. 7 years ago he was the mainstay along with Wasim and Waqar but as you get older it becomes more difficult to press your claim. Cricistan.Com: Have you seen the near 7 foot tall Mohammad Irfan? David Dwyer: Yes, he's a prospect. He just turned up out of nowhere from a remote village in never, never land. He's raw, he's big and he'll trouble batsmen because they haven't faced a bowler like that in this era. He's the sort of bowler who can even extract bounce out of a dull pitch. We're 7 years behind the game with him because he probably never touched a weight before he arrived at the NCA, in Australia that would've never been allowed to happen. Cricistan.Com: What does the fact that he's never trained before mean to the sort of training you give him? David Dwyer: He has to start from zero, you can't put someone through advanced training before they've done the basics. You have to learn to crawl before you can run. We've been trying to keep on top of him to make sure that he can spend as much time working out as possible. It's become more difficult since he started playing for a department and a domestic team but luckily he's been really good at getting all his gym work done. Cricistan.Com: At one time Pakistan were producing 150k+ bowlers on a regular basis but not anymore, what's happened to the fast bowling factory? Why have stopped production? David Dwyer: But you are. Look at Mohammad Aamer who just blazed in out of nowhere bowling at 150 clicks at just 73kg in weight! The same with Sohail Khan who appeared out of nowhere bowling at 140 clicks. Before his injury Umar Gul was a 150k bowler too. Pakistan is still producing 150k bowlers but I tend to find that Pakistan fans are a little impatient. You want to return to the glory days without any transition period like perhaps the one Australia have just gone through. Australia had a 12 to 15 month period where our main fast bowlers were injured and they had to jump to the domestic programme where they found Siddle. But now that everyone's fit, Australia are overflowing with fast bowlers. Cricistan.Com: Plus you have Shaun Tait waiting in the wings. David Dwyer: I think Tait's test career is over, he will no doubt play with the one day team but it seems that he's been bracketed as a T20 player. The point is that Australia were willing to go through a tough period and now we're in the situation where Stuart Clark can't get a game. Who'd have believed that 3 years ago! Cricistan.Com: Why do you think Pakistan always seem to be stuck in a transition period? David Dwyer: Pakistan have this perpetually revolving door for selectors, coaches, administrators and captains. How can there ever be any consistency when everything is always in a state of flux. It feels like personnel are changing every day. When the Windies and Australia were in their dominant phases do you ever remember them making many changes? Cricistan.Com: I agree. Consistency of results can't be achieved without consistency of personnel. David Dwyer: Exactly but I've never known that to happen in Pakistan cricket. Cricistan.Com: Could you name 5 players that you feel are unlucky not to have played more for Pakistan or who could be playing for Pakistan soon. David Dwyer: You're only allowed to field XI players in a cricket team so it's hard on those who don't make the cut. I think in the future we'll start to field specialist players for different formats of cricket, horses for courses if you like. These are the 5 players I'd name... --> Sohail Tanvir - I think Tanvir is unlucky not to have played more cricket especially in T20. --> Anwar Ali - He plays for Pakistan A and I think he's one who could play test cricket in the future. --> Wahab Riaz - He does the hard yards in domestic but it remains to be seen if he can at International level. --> Mansoor Amjad - He's a legspinner who can bat, he could perhaps replace Danish. --> Raza Hasan - He's a young left arm spinner who's been impressing everyone. Cricistan.Com: What do you think went wrong in the T20 semi final, what didn't we do then that we did do in Edgbaston? David Dwyer: I don't necessarily think it was about what we did wrong but about what Australia did right, I think we should be gracious and say they played better cricket. At one point they were literally out of the game but their incredible depth and the fact they always keep fighting till the very end saved them. Having said that, I think we missed that accuracy of Umar Gul in the final overs and we weren't as good as other countries such as England in using the slower balls. We did everything as we had planned when we batted and our fielding in the semi final was also very good. It's a testament to the team that in every T20 World Cup we have made the final or semi final. I would think we should still be ranked number 1 in the world in this format of the game. Recently we made the semi finals of the Champions Trophy, so I'd like to see that as a step in the right direction too. Cricistan.Com: What are our chances for the Australian test series? David Dwyer: I think our chances are good. If we can get our mental side right and execute then we can be very competitive if not win. I think the guys play well in the UK and the support is incredible. Hopefully it can help push the guys and eliminate the home support the English team will get which is worth soooo much. Cricistan.Com: What about our chances for the English test series? David Dwyer: The same as I've stated against Australia. England are a dangerous side. They're improving dramatically and I said the English crowd seem to be able to help the team get out of near impossible situations. A good start to the Test Match summer against Australia is imperative, if we do well against Australia then we can feed off that. We have taken every team, possibly with the exception of Australia, to close results. We just need to get over that hurdle and start taking advantage of winning situations in games. We've got find that killer finish. Cricistan.Com: You resigned from the Pakistan team during the tour of Australia but now that you've been tempted to return, how long are you planning on staying? David Dwyer: I resigned because I was going to stay at home but the PCB asked me to reconsider straight away and to at least stay for the T20 WC. At the moment I'm a little unsure about how long I'll stay. Cricistan.Com: When you do give up the Pakistan job, do you plan to back to Rugby or to stay with Cricket? David Dwyer: I don't mind. I like to learn new sports. You learn new cultures, new movements and to appreciate the new sport for what it is. When I leave I'd like to head home and have a job like the one I do now. In my line of work, there's only so many positions available so I'm not completely ruling out the possibility that I may have to travel to get another job of this calibre again. Cricistan.Com: Well it's nice to still have you about for now, hopefully the players will continue listening to you. David Dwyer: Hopefully people have noticed that the players are looking fitter. Cricistan.Com: I think we have noticed. Even someone like Mohammad Yousuf looks a lot fitter in his late 30s than he was in his early 20s. David Dwyer: That's good to hear. Cricistan.Com: Thank you for talking to Cricistan, best of luck with the team for this English summer.