Mandate - - Fitness - By Nairita Mukhre­jee

In spite of a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with on-field in­juries, ZA­HEER KHAN is a legend in his own right. Cur­rently re­cov­er­ing from a torn ten­don, and vy­ing for a come­back into the In­dian squad, he keeps him­self busy with his lat­est ven­ture, Prosport, The Fit­ness Hub. Man­date catches up with the sports­man and en­tre­pre­neur in be­tween his work­out and train­ing sched­ules.

It was one of the cooler De­cem­ber days in Mumbai. Post a morn­ing of some chills, the city had fi­nally shed its scarves and shawls and come out in the sun for a cup of tea. The Raghu­van­shi Mills com­pound, like any other mill com­pound in South Mumbai, was a sea of crisp shirts and business suits on one side, mark­ing a tea break at nearby cor­po­rate of­fices, and ea­ger ven­dors car­ry­ing south In­dian del­i­ca­cies on their cy­cle car­ri­ers at the prospect of business, on the other. As we walked into the cam­pus with our cam­era equip­ment and stu­dio lights, an ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic se­cu­rity guard guided us to our des­ti­na­tion, Prosport, The Fit­ness Hub.

The gym, if we can call it so, was un­like the other fit­ness cen­tres we’d seen so far. A gi­ant cir­cuit which ap­peared to have been made from metal pipes and faucets formed the cen­tre piece of the floor, sur­rounded by mir­rors on one side and brick-pat­terned walls on the other, ren­der­ing the space a grungy, fight club look. If you were Rocky Balboa, this would be your happy place.

As we sipped on our cof­fee and put our heads to­gether, chalk­ing out the min­utes of the shoot, in walked Za­heer Khan, In­dia’s most com­plete fast bowler of all time, also, the founder of Prosport, The Fit­ness Hub. Dressed in a pair of straight blue track pants and a T-Shirt, this six-foot- some­thing man was hard to ig­nore even when he wasn’t charg­ing at you with a ball in hand. A sup­pressed mur­mur floated past my ears, and I couldn’t blame my crew for say­ing so; he does ap­pear big­ger in per­son than he ever did on tele­vi­sion, ex­ceed­ing the good looks ex­pec­ta­tions by


a mile! “You have to guide me through, I’m not so good with the cam­era,” said Za­heer, chang­ing into a white T-Shirt. “Her­man will be here to help me with the ex­er­cises.” Har­manus Stephanus Leiben­berg, the floor trainer on duty, quickly parked him­self next to Za­heer at the in­struc­tion, mak­ing sure he wasn’t over­do­ing any move and thus, in­jur­ing him­self again.

Za­heer’s ca­reer, aside from be­ing or­na­mented with one achieve­ment after another, is also a case study for re­cur­ring in­juries, which of­ten in­ter­rupted his progress at the in­ter­na­tional level. Re­cently, an in­jury he picked up dur­ing the 2014 IPL sea­son shat­tered his hopes of mak­ing a come­back in In­dia’s test se­ries in Eng­land. “This has been another bat­tle for me. Play­ing for In­dia was never easy in the first place. Things are al­ways dif­fi­cult at that level, and in­juries add to it,” Za­heer opened up later, as we sat in a quiet of­fice room ad­ja­cent to the gyming area. “All I can do is work hard and pre­pare my­self and then the op­por­tu­nity of play­ing for the na­tional side has to hap­pen on its own.” As splen­didly op­ti­mistic as it may sound, Za­heer re­fused to pay any heed to ru­mours of re­tire­ment, even when he has not made it to the World Cup squad. “I’m 100 per cent con­fi­dent that I will make a come­back, but I want to make sure that I’m 100 per cent fit too. I can­not put a date on it ob­vi­ously, as it de­pends on a lot of things, but it will def­i­nitely hap­pen.”

Per­haps, this is what puts Zak, as his team-mates fondly call him, in just the right place, where he felt talk­ing about in­jury man­age­ment was im­por­tant. “I’ve trav­elled all over the world seek­ing med­i­cal as­sis­tance, be­cause I felt there’s a gap in In­dia in terms of phys­io­ther­apy and train­ing. And, that’s what in­spired Prosport. I thought, why not pro­vide the same here so that oth­ers are ben­e­fited,” he added, ex­plain­ing the aes­thet­ics be­hind this spe­cial re­hab and train­ing cen­tre, as he calls it. He con­tin­ued, “Of course, I have plans for ex­pan­sion, con­vert­ing it in to a chain and we are also work­ing on dif­fer­ent tie-ups which will work in our favour.”

For a sports­man, there’s no bet­ter train­ing than that on the field. And, even as ex­perts ar­gue whether to­day’s crick­eters are play­ing too much cricket, thus mak­ing them­selves prone to in­juries and fa­tigue, Za­heer un­abashedly en­dorsed that there is no such thing as too much cricket. “Not re­ally. I’ve al­ways felt that when ev­ery­thing is go­ing good with you in terms of your form and fit­ness, you must keep go­ing and not take a sea­son break un­nec­es­sar­ily,” he ex­plained. “In­juries have given me enough breaks, you see. I would rather play more.”

Learn­ing from his own ex­pe­ri­ence per­haps, Za­heer has come to be­lieve that re­cov­ery is as im­por­tant as the in­jury it­self and urges as­pir­ing fast bowlers to not overdo in a mo­ment of adren­a­line rush. “It is al­ways the qual­ity that is im­por­tant and not the quan­tity, there­fore one must make sure they are do­ing the right amount of ex­er­cise and the right way,” he said, quickly adding, “Also, al­ways lis­ten to your trainer, and lis­ten to your body, be­cause your body al­ways tells you when you’ve over­done some­thing and you need re­cov­ery time.”

Ask him how he’s been keep­ing fit all this while, es­pe­cially since he’s been off the field, and he cat­e­gor­i­cally takes you through a reg­u­lar day in his life, with­out fail­ing to credit Adrian Le Roux, his friend, business part­ner and some­one he’s been work­ing with for years, for de­sign­ing all his work­outs. “Right now, the rou­tine in­volves a lot of phys­io­ther­apy, since I’ve been in­jured for a while. But a typ­i­cal rou­tine is, hit the gym in the morn­ing and do nets in the evening. I try to bowl about three to four times a week along with some heavy weight train­ing. Of course, all this only when I’m not play­ing. And dur­ing the sea­son, I keep it light, the whole train­ing is fo­cused around core strength­en­ing,” he con­cluded. Well, let’s hope all his ef­forts pay off and we soon see him in ac­tion: Swing­ing the new ball, and rev­ers­ing the old, like he has al­ways done through­out his ca­reer.

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