How many times have we walked back to the pavilion asking "what on earth happened there?"
I know I have on numerous occasions.
As you read last week, England and Somerset batsman Nick Compton popped in to run a Batting Masterclass at Millfield School.
Nick asked all of the players a great question: Are you ready to bat?
Nick spoke of the strategy that he runs before he bats.
He is someone who shuts himself off from the rest of the world to his thoughts ahead of facing the first ball.
Nick told us how he visualises himself successfully facing the first ball, the first over and then his 1st twenty balls. He views himself incorporating a 'world class defence', moving well, leaving decisively and scoring off the balls that fall into his preferred scoring areas.
Nick manages his breathing during this 5 minute process as this helps him to control his emotions, physiology and aids the visualisation process.
For England, Nick opens the batting and therefore, he always had 5 minutes to do this directly ahead of his 1st ball.
However, Nick bats at number 3 for Somerset and runs through this process at the start of each day and then a more concise version when the 1st wicket falls. In the shortened version, Nick gets onto his haunches and collects his thoughts for 30 seconds ahead of striding out to the wicket.
Is this a trick you can use?
Dealing with anxiety at the crease
Nick repeatedly mentioned that he has improved his ability to manage his emotions at the crease over the past couple of seasons. This has resulted in Nick being able to bat for longer and score more runs.
Emotions and anxiety come into play at all stages of an innings. Here are a few examples of potential high anxiety points that can impact upon batting performance:
- Making a début
- Facing your first ball
- Approaching a milestone
- Refocusing after reaching a milestone (like Brendan McCullum on 302 against India at Wellington).
- Chasing a target down.
- Batting with the tail.
- Batting to keep your place in the side during a poor period of performance.
So how can we deal with anxiety better?
Recently, I listened to a keynote speech by Jonathan Bockelmann-Evans at Millfield Preparatory School. Jonathan is one of the UK's leading emotional health consultants.
Jonathan spoke and demonstrated a technique called 7/11 breathing.
This helps to alleviate anxiety and increases focus on the things that matter. How relevant is that for batting?
Encourage your players not to breathe into the chest (as many normally do) but deep into their tummy or diaphragm which is below the chest. The important thing here is that the out breath must be longer that the in breath.
This process causes stimulation of the part of the nervous system responsible for relaxation. This is a basic law of biology and if someone breathes in this way then their body will have no choice but to relax.
If you can pass this lesson onto your players, then you might be giving them the most effective piece of coaching advice ever.