All the practice has been done and now it is time for the first test. The key theme has been ensuring that the players are prepared tactically, technically and physically for the games ahead. Now it is time for the mental toughness element/strategies that are needed to deal with a very challenging team and difficult conditions.
This is where we will find out who can stick to their game plan and adapt when necessary. The conditions necessitate a very specific type of strategy with slight adaptions to the different bowlers they will face. Therefore each player will have to be disciplined and most importantly patient throughout the 50 overs that they will be expected to play. (e.g if we expect to play in the same way we would in the UK this will go horribly wrong)
At the beginning of the practice three players were presented with their first England caps. A very proud moment for each of them, I was also touched by the passion of the person giving out the caps. He was an ex England player who took each person through their journey to date with the program. It will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives because I will as a mere spectator.
I was momentarily taken back to being presented with a red beret for joining the Para’s and a beige one for the SAS. The symbolic nature of this I didn’t appreciate as much as I should have. It is only now that I look at those berets and the belts associated with them that I realize the importance of the symbol and what was required to earn them. I recently looked at the way the Parachute Regiment course is run today and especially P-Company, although there are minor differences to the course run now they are basically the same. Here are the elements of the key fitness tests run over three days;
A 10-mile (16 km) march conducted as a squad over undulating terrain. Each candidate carries a 35 lb (16 kg) bergen (not including water) and a rifle. The march is currently to be completed in under 1 hour 50 minutes (TA candidates have 2 hours).
A unique assault course set 60 feet (18 m) above the ground, designed to test a candidate’s ability to overcome fear and follow simple orders at considerable height. This is the only event which is a straight pass or fail; all the other events are scored. The total score required to pass is known only to the P Coy staff
A team event, in which eight men carry a log (a telegraph pole) weighing 60 kg over 1.9 miles (3.1 km) of undulating terrain. Candidates wear a helmet and webbing. This is supposed to be one of the hardest events.
2 Mile March
An individual effort over 2 miles (3.2 km) of undulating terrain, carrying a 35 lb (16 kg) bergen (not including water), rifle, combat jacket, and helmet. Regular candidates have 18 minutes, TA candidates have 19 minutes to complete the run.
A timed 1.8-mile (2.9 km) cross-country run, followed by an assault course. The time limit is 19 minutes, after which candidates lose one point every 15 seconds.
In this event, each candidate is paired with another of similar weight and build, and is given 60 seconds to demonstrate ‘controlled physical aggression’ in a milling contest – similar to boxing, except neither winning, losing, nor skill are pre-requisites of passing. Candidates are instead scored on their determination, while blocking and dodging result in points deducted. Candidates now wear head protection and gum shields as well as boxing gloves.
20 Mile Endurance March
A 20-mile (32 km) squadded march over diverse types of terrain. Candidates carry a 35 lb (16 kg) bergen (not including water) and a rifle. The march must be completed in under 4 hours and 30 minutes. TA candidates do not participate in this event, due to their reduced opportunity to prepare for the course.
Candidates are divided into teams of 16 men, and have to carry a 175 lb (79 kg) stretcher over a distance of 5 miles (8.0 km), each individual candidate wearing a helmet, webbing and a slung rifle. No more than four candidates carry the stretcher at any given time, swapping round at regular intervals so that all candidates carry the stretcher for a certain distance. 
Over the last two weeks the team/me have been taking food supplements/vitamins alongside a normal diet, there is no doubt that they have assisted my level of fitness and feel good factor at this stage of the tour. The supplements have been able to give me a full daily allowance of fruit/veg, with Omega 3, and a muliti vitamin tablet to add to the mix.The food on tour has been very good and there is nothing like having all of your meals prepared for you.
It has also been good to be disciplined in warming up the body each day. I have joined the warm up session of the team and it is so good to start the day off after a great stretching session and small run around. I had forgotten how much fun tag could be.
First test finished with a loss for us by 44 runs.
Second test has also finished with a lost by 19 runs and as I type now I am watching the start of the third test.
What I love about the program is watching the players develop into match players and deal with adversity. Seeing those that operate in the pressure zone and are willing to test themselves individually and as a team is great. Our aim is to win the World Cup this year. Everything we go through is in preparation for that. The result of the third test is a win by us with an over and two wickets to spare.
I would also like to say well done to the military team that followed in Scott’s footsteps. They managed to make it 100 years to the day to the pole on 17 Jan 2012 (25 mins to spare!). This was after 76 days and 920 miles of walking (8 days tent bound). They hope to raise further monies for the RBL (www.scottamundsenrace.org), so please spread the word…It was a test of physical (strength and endurance), mental robustness (especially). So well done.
I am going to leave today for Sylhet for the second stage of our journey. We are also expecting large crowds there as they have not had much international cricket, which will also add a new dimension to the game.
In the mean time I am working on a number of other projects, which I will cover shortly.
Have a great week.