Speaking at an Karnataka State Cricket Association event in Bangalore recently, Sachin Tendulkar was talking about selection.
For him the key to finding the next Tendulkar wasn't about stats.
It wasn't about textbook technique.
Or immense power and timing.
No, for the Little Master it was about "the ability to withstand pressure and execute."
And he is right. We can all smash the ball around in the nets. With a little experience we can score runs when the sun is shining, the pitch is flat and the bowling is gentle.
But everything changes when you are chasing 120 on a difficult wicket with a couple of big scary quick bowlers decimating your top order.
Knowledge is not execution
The problem is that it's easy to say this.
It's just as easy to know that's what you should do to stand out as a batter.
I'm willing to bet that half the people who started reading this article got as far as the Sachin quote and abandoned this article altogether because the information was so self-evident.
Yet those are the same people who fail under pressure every time it is applied.
They know they should withstand pressure but they can't execute.
They are scared before they walk into bat, they don't want to be out there. When they are they scratch around nervously before falling to a poor shot and blaming the pitch.
They also have scored easy runs so they feel they are a decent player. They probably are. But they will never be a reliable player making runs in all situations like Sachin.
Pressure will always defeat them, even though they know that pressure makes the difference. They know but they don't execute.
Luckily you have an advantage over these people. You may have the same issues under pressure but the key is you are still reading, still open and willing to admit something: that being able to handle pressure is the most crucial part of your batting development.
So how do you handle the pressure and become a hero, like Tendulkar has done so many times?
You have already taken the first step in recognising the need for it, and to work your psychological training into you plan.
Because, just like a cover drive, you can practice handling pressure to get better at it.
Deliberate pressure practice
People handle pressure situations in many different ways. Some love it (but if you have read this far, that's probably not you), others have to learn to love it.
Either way, you have to know how you react to different pressures and the best method you have to prepare for them.
The best way to do that is to add pressure to your deliberate practice.
For example. Lets say you are bowling in nets and wanting to bowl line and length. Target practice with PitchVision is a perfect deliberate practice tool. You can add pressure to it by competing with another bowler. Make it like a penalty shoot out in football. You have 5 goes to score more hits on target than your opponent. Put a drink or a meal on the outcome.
You can do the same with batting. For example, testing how many balls you make good contact before you edge or play and miss. You can do this for any "set piece" situation.
You soon learn how to play under pressure!
The other advantage of this kind of practice is that you can try different psychological preparation methods. You can see what kind of self-talk works best for you. You can work through imagery methods, and discover ways to eliminate distraction. For more on these techniques get the online coaching course How to Use Mental Training to Boost Your Game
You don't need to make any huge changes to the way you practice, just the way you approach practice mentally.
Soon you will gain a handle on your ability under pressure, start making improvements and get the Tendulkar edge that we all desire.
It will put you way ahead of the guys who stopped reading.
image credit: Privatemusings