Fitness guru Kenny Thompson to help Bermuda fulfil T20 World Cup aspirations
Kenny Thompson has been turning his attention to cricket as he aims to try and help the national men’s senior squad qualify for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in 2024.
While usually associated with football as the head coach of North Village, Thompson has been drafted in by the Bermuda Cricket Board, which is keen to utilise his knowledge of sports fitness within his role as a trainer at Beast Gym.
Since the summer, Thompson has been working directly with the national squad players with the aim of getting them up to peak fitness ahead of Bermuda launching its qualifying campaign in an ICC Sub-Regional Qualifier in Argentina from February 25 to March 4 next year, where they will face Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Panama, Suriname and the hosts.
The top three teams will then be joined in Bermuda by Canada for the Regional Finals, in which they will compete for the last World Cup qualifying spot in the Americas Region.
“I’m not sure how my name surfaced in the first place but I was approached about whether I could help with the national team in terms of their fitness,” said Thompson.
“We discussed programmes we could offer the squad and what we could do. I think with Niraj [head coach Niraj Odedra], coming over from India, he has first-hand knowledge and experience of what elite-level cricket should look like. I think he looked at the group in previous tournaments and realised the conditioning of the squad needed improving. We set out what type of work we could do specifically geared towards them.
“In the summer we used devices on the players that measured their fitness levels within training and in matches. It tracked areas like distance covered and what they were doing at certain stages of the match.
“Niraj wanted certain metrics tracked to make sure the levels were in line with what he expected. He’s definitely very hands-on in regards to everything and between the coaches and myself included, he is well aware of what is being done.”
As with any sport, Thompson is well aware of how significant the smallest of margins can make to give a team a crucial advantage.
“No matter the sport, baseline fitness is a major part,” Thompson said. “Obviously the squad needs high fitness levels in general but within cricket we have been analysing what type of fitness is required for specific players.
“Small margins can make a major difference. Obviously greater fitness with the batsman might mean more running between the wickets and more runs. In the field it can improve the fielding and for fast bowlers in particular it allows them to be explosive and consistently hit their speed targets and maintain that.
“For each discipline there will be a certain level of intensity required. The goal is to obviously have them at the best possible fitness level because if they are in an unfit state going into matches it will make a huge difference.
“We’ve researched what elite-level players were doing and then it was a case of trying to get closer to those standards.
“No matter what level of opposition you play against, one thing you can control is how fit you are going into the game. The aim is to be able to match anyone in terms of fitness and so it is important that the players understand what those levels are and how they can get as close as possible to where they need to be.
“I’ve used England bowler Ollie Robinson declaring how he has become a gym freak to help him reclaim his place in the England team as an example for our players of its importance.”
While expectations and demands are high, Thompson is adamant players are already reaping the rewards of their early work with the squad evidently buying into what is being implemented.
“We’ve had almost two months of working with the players and they have told me that they can feel a difference in themselves and that they feel sharper,” he said.
“From my point of view, I’ve definitely seen a difference. We test different areas every month and you can see the level of improvement.”
Although focus remains fully on the upcoming qualifying campaign, Thompson is hopeful that the foundations being laid will be become standard for the future.
“For me, this is not a short-term thing and I’m always looking further ahead,” he added. “We have a vision of this being an ongoing thing to hopefully help build a culture around fitness.
“That way players know the conditions that are required to be part of the national set-up and what the expectations are to be able to play for Bermuda. Although we are focusing on getting ready for this tournament, there is a long-term plan.”