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Why do cricketers play football before a match?

We take a look at why exactly football is so popular on a cricket field these days.

Indian cricket team playing football
The Indian Cricket team players Football as a warm-up 

Football on the cricket ground is something a lot of people think is weird, but in recent times it is a game that a lot of cricketers play during their practice and training sessions, especially before matches. People might argue saying that the players should be hitting the nets rather than kicking the ball around, but this adrenaline filled sport is more beneficial before the match begins. Whether it is Test cricket or One Day Internationals or T-20 cricket, it doesn’t matter, they always have a game of football before the actual match starts.

The fast-paced sport is not only good as a warm up before a match but is also a good way to increase the agility and flexibility of a player. Royal Challengers player Shane Watson recently said that playing football before a match also helps in team bonding, as all the players will be playing at the same time. It also improves basic instinct and game presence of a player. Shane Watson was quick to talk about his football sessions before the Royal Challengers went out to play in the IPL, he admitted that the sport is very popular among the players, saying that skipper Virat Kohli and KL Rahul as two best footballers in the side. He quoted, to the Times of India “Before any practice session the guys just love playing football. Virat is the Ronaldo of the team. (KL) Rahul is very serious about the sport and is good at it too.”

Both captains of the Indian Cricket team Kohli and Dhoni even take their shared passion beyond the 22 yards. They both own teams in the Indian Super League (ISL) and have a great respect and love for the sport. Top scorer for the Royal Challengers Virat Kohli told The Times of India, "Whenever the team is feeling down or we've had a hectic travel day and don't have the energy to do normal warm-up, football gives the extra motivation to run after a ball and show our skills. Basically, it gets the competitive nature out in a big way. Whenever we feel like we have to bond as a team and get our energy going, we have a quick game of football and we are ready to go."

Looking at the game as an energy booster, Virat Kholi even carries his football boots in his kit. He feels that even a short game of football before a match is a good cardio exercise “When we play for long, we can actually go on for 40-45 minutes that burns you out completely. I’m someone who cannot control myself; I keep running back and forth. If you are not someone who likes to run laps around the ground, just play football for 40 minutes,” the 27-year-old star added in his talk with Times of India. 

During a Conversation with Cricketers, Indian team player, and Gujrat Lions all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja got hooked onto football after joining the Indian team, he said “I started playing football as a pre-practice routine when I joined the Indian team in 2009. We enjoy our football before practice. When I get some free time, I try to work on my skills as I love the sport.”

There is though a downside to all this football – Injuries.

Injuries can hit players of all sports and a game of cricket can cause an equal number of injuries as a game of football Yuvraj Singh the man who made the record of six sixes in six balls also grew to love the faced paced game before a match, in the pre-semi- final world T20 practice session in Dhaka in 2014, playing barefoot football, Yuvraj Singh managed to injure himself. ESPN asked Captain MS Dhoni about this and with a straight face he said “Paise khatam ho gaye [We don't have any money left]".

Rohit Sharma’s test debut against South Africa in 2010 was delayed by almost three and a half years after he twisted his ankle playing football before his first test match ever. Rohit insisted it was a great way to unwind during a hectic schedule, but some think he should stick to his other love of fantasy football; it’s all much safer playing from the couch. 

But these pre-game injuries can be kept to a minimum by taking the proper precautions. Regardless, the modern-day cricketer thinks that a bit of football practice before a big game is a good thing. While traditionalists like Sunil Gavaskar cannot stand the trend towards non-cricket drills before a match, and make the argument that the players should be hitting the nets instead of kicking the ball around before a match, the fact of the matter is that football is quickly making its mark in the cricket and the world’s most popular sport is here to stay.

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