“When you have it (Positive Attitude) you feel like you’re never going to lose it, when you haven’t got it, you feel like you’re never going to get it.” Matthew Hayden
Mental skills that cricket demands
Playing cricket helps develop a range of cognitive skills that are important for success in the game and in life generally. The purpose of a professional cricket team is to win and to entertain. A cricket game involves tactical duels, the most dramatic of which is between the bowler and the batsman. A bowler’s purpose is to get the batsman out or to slow his run-rate and to achieve this goal a bowler can use strategies of brute force or, more often, deception and cunning to succeed. When using deception, the bowler is trying to out-think the batsman. At the same time, the batsman is devising ways to score runs off the bowler or break his will and confidence by dominating him. Each bowler and batsman studies their opponent’s strengths and weakness, and avoids one and plays the other. This takes careful thinking, nerve and skill.
“Cricket is a game that obviously requires talent, but when talent is equal, as it so often is, the formula for success comes from strength of mind.” Steve Waugh
Your success starts with your mind
“No human is limited. It’s not about the legs. It’s about the heart and mind. With a strong heart and good mind you can do it. If you don’t rule your mind it can rule you.” Eliud Kipchoge
Belief (mindset) + Action (constant practice) = Success
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” Buddha
“To me, it doesn’t matter how good you are. Sport is all about playing and competing. Whatever you do in cricket and in sport, enjoy it, be positive and try to win.” Ian Botham
Confidence in cricket
Losing confidence doesn’t just happen to amateurs; it also restricts top-class professionals. Tim Paine was one of Australia’s best young players before a number of broken fingers affected his results which shattered his belief and confidence in himself. “Obviously I lost a lot of confidence in the last two years, so it’s just about reinforcing the fact that I’m still quite a good player, and if I believe that, I’ll produce more often than not.”
Tips to help sustain a positive attitude
All cricketers use self-talk in some way, whether they know it or not. Self-talk is the way cricketers talk to themselves during a game or during a practice to improve their focus. Use this technique correctly and it will give you more runs, wickets and catches
Everyone makes assumptions about players based on how they look. For example, a fit, strong looking player with expensive kit and freshly pressed whites is automatically assumed to be a better player. You can use this by making sure you look your best at all times, as well as not making any assumptions about opposing players.
A bowler with his head down and shoulders slumped is a terrible sign for the fielding side. Be aware of your posture, stand tall, hold your head up high and shoulders back, even in the midst of disaster.
Cricketers’ hand movements often reveal what they are thinking without realizing it. Some are naturally more expressive and some are better at guarding gestures than others. Become a student of hand gestures and you may pick up helpful insights about the opposition, as well as learning how expressions are giving away your own hand in the field.
Everything from a handshake to a hug has a meaning. Using the right sort of touch can reassure a player or boost their confidence. If you are captain or senior player, know your team. Some will want no more than a handshake; others may need an arm round the shoulder.
It is very hard to hide your facial expressions, as well as your overall body language. When you learn to pick up on your opponent’s expressions, make sure you share your insights with your team and use it to your team’s advantage.
“It’s a mix of high skill levels and being clear mentally, strong minded. With the noise and pressure it’s about how you control your emotions.” Ashley Giles
Before he opened an innings, Geoff Boycott used to go into a mental cocoon in the dressing room. He would rehearse his innings, thinking about the bounce of the wicket, think about troublesome and easy bowlers and where runs will come from. He would visualize his innings unfold in his mind. Geoff may call this concentration or common sense, but like many high performing cricketers he is using a technique called imagery to enhance his game.
How to use imagery to improve your cricket
Create a Blueprint
If you have played cricket for a while, many skills become automated. You can bowl without thinking about the action, or catch a ball without worrying about hand position. However, to use imagery well you need to be aware of how doing something right actually feels. To do this, when you perform a skill correctly, take a moment to remember it in detail: the position of your body, the timing, the flow of movement, the way you feel and anything else.
Once you are becoming aware of the way success looks and feels you can start to recall it outside of practice. Take some time outside of the cricket field to reflect your successes and failures. This could be a very detailed memory of a whole game, through to something very simple like the feeling of a well-timed drive through the covers.
Finally, put these successful images and feelings into a match situation. On the morning of a match and before you are about to bowl or bat, bring back the images and feelings in your mind as vividly as possible. Make them real.
While this process takes some work, you should be able to get good results quickly and if you work at it you will improve your imagery skills even further, making your mind a powerful tool in your game.
How do you remember to keep a positive attitude and stay on track towards your cricket goals? It can be difficult to stay focussed, especially under pressure. That’s where cue cards come in. Cue cards are simply small cards with specific words or statements on them to help you concentrate.
“Players with good attitude always give good results.” Don Bradman
Article by Hasseb Paracha