Today I’d like to discuss something we’ve never talked about on this blog before: diet and fitness. England spent a massive 201 overs in the field at Mount Maunganui and looked absolutely shattered by the end. It’s no wonder we batted so feebly on day 5.

Fatigue can effect players mentally as well as physically. Therefore it’s no surprise that some of the world’s leading players are also leading the way when it comes to diet. If your energy levels remain high, and you can remain switched on and focused after spending hours at the crease, then it goes without saying that you’ll be in a better position to make daddy hundreds.

Unfortunately, the only Daddies I’ve experienced in recent times has been the sauce on my bacon sandwiches. I haven’t scored a hundred for a few years now and, at 43 years of age, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever score another. Every time I get beyond 60 or 70 I feel absolutely knackered – especially if it’s a hot day. And a poor / lazy shot inevitably follows soon afterwards.

However, the good news is that I’m not the only one who’s had this problem. A certain Mr Virat Kohli (you might’ve heard of him) used to be a bit of a porker in his youth. Although he lost some weight when he started playing professionally, he freely admits that he wasn’t particularly fit when he made his India debut. Indeed, he only really started to pile on the runs when he piled off the pounds.

Over the years Kohli has become something of a diet and fitness fanatic. At first he gave up his naan breads and gravy-laden curries and decided to stick to grilled chicken, eggs, salmon, veggies, and seafood. He also decided to limit his red meat intake. He only ate the latter when India’s fitness coach told him to add more muscle to his frame. Those huge sixes don’t hit themselves I suppose.

However, Virat has now gone a stage further and become a fully fledged vegan – jumping on a bandwagon that seems to have accelerated exponentially in recent times. Australia, for example, have three vegan players in Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa, and Peter Siddle. The latter has definitely benefitted from the change. At the age of 35 (it’s his birthday today!) he looks fitter and leaner than ever.

One wonders if English cricketers have thought about adopting the Virat Kohli vegan diet? Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie is a big advocate of veganism, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s already spoken to the likes of Jofra Archer. England footballers Jermaine Defoe and Fabian Delph are also vegans, as is football’s equivalent of Virat Kohli, the Argentinian Lionel Messi (you might’ve heard of him too). In fact, several of the world’s leading sportsmen are now vegans.

So what do vegan cricketers eat instead of the usual sausage rolls, ham sandwiches, and scotch eggs at tea? According to Earley Cricket Club in Reading, which is apparently the first cricket club in the land to serve a fully plant-based menu, the options are rich and varied. Indeed, rather than opting for boring old cucumber sandwiches at intervals the club serves a whole host of cooked meals for visiting teams: vegan curries, pizzas, stir-fries, pasta, tortilla wraps, plus the inevitable fruit and biscuits. It’s a veritable banquet every time.

Although this isn’t quite enough to persuade yours truly to become a vegan, I can certainly see the appeal. I’d quite like to be as good at cricket as India’s captain, or indeed as good at football as Lionel Messi. There’s just one draw back. I simply don’t have the self-discipline to stick to the Virat Kohli vegan diet. After all, the sacrifices don’t end with sticking to plant-based foods.

You won’t be surprised to hear that Kohli spends most of his free time exercising. He spends two to four hours per day in the gym during the off-season, mostly drinks fresh fruit juice, and doesn’t allow himself the luxury of taking sugar in his coffee. And naturally he neither smokes nor drinks alcohol. The last one’s probably a deal-breaker for me!

However, if England want to be world No.1 then they might have to think about emulating the Virat Kohli vegan diet. He’s spearheaded a fitness revolution in Indian cricket, and I think we can all agree that it’s going rather well.

If you think I’m exaggerating the benefits – don’t worry I was highly sceptical at first too – check out the documentary Game Changers (I’ve embedded the trailer below). It’s pretty eye-opening stuff. Although I do wonder what Shane ‘burgers for lunch’ Warne would make of it all.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with Canada Sports Betting

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