Bowling is hard. At least when you bat and you are out you can hide in the pavilion, but when you bowl and are clattered for 3 boundaries in a row there is nowhere to hide. You have to finish the over.
No wonder the mind becomes cluttered with thoughts and plans when you stand at the top of the mark.
But an unfocused mind makes it difficult to bowl. How many times have you bowled wide outside the off stump, tried to compensate and end up throwing it down he leg side instead?
Stuart Barnes, the Gloucestershire bowling coach, has a unique way any bowler can deal with the turmoil in the middle: breaking down the walk back to your mark:
As you can see from the picture, as you walk back you can split your return into three stages:
- Clear. The walk from the end of your follow through to the stumps is the time to think about something else. Forget the ball that has just gone or the one you are going to bowl and think about what a lovely sunny day it is, or anything to relax your mind from the stress of bowling for a moment. Wipe the slate clean.
- Review. When you reach the stumps, bring your mind back to the game by thinking about the ball just bowled. Was it what you wanted to do? Did the batsman react in the way you expected? Did the ball move as much as you thought it would?
- Plan/Decide. When you are about halfway back, stop reviewing and begin planning the next ball. Will you do the same again? If not, how can you change your plan based on what has happened so far this over?
By the time you reach the top of your mark you are ready. You know what ball you are going to bowl without confusion (you have already done your planning and decision making in the walk back).
This will improve your consistency by giving you more mental strength.