In cricket, it’s very important to shift you focus at the right time to be successful.
What are the keys areas of focus for a batsman?
You check the score board, then take guard. Look around to the field set up. Check the gaps.
Moving ahead, as soon as the bowlers starts to run up the batsman can have thoughts like, where the bowler will pitch the ball, how much is it swinging and what shot should be played.
So, now the question is, how to focus?
Broad to narrow focus
Broad focus is gathering information from surroundings. Narrow focus is focusing on one important and centre point of your work.
Broad focus - for a batsman - is the score, what is the field set up, how to take a run from the next delivery.
As soon as bowler starts his run up then your focus shifts from broad focus to narrow focus. At this time your only work is to gather information about the delivery from the cues he can get from bowlers run up, jump, loading and finally release.
External to internal focus
The direction of the focus can also be changed from external to internal.
You can have your thinking about the delivery or the kind of feedback you got about the bowler and to shift it to into external focus by seeing the different situation of the surroundings like pitch’s behaviour or the weather conditions.
For the bowler, the internal focus is preparing to bowl: how they will deliver the ball to this batsman or where to pitch. Then, after the delivery, changing the focus to external: how the batsman will react to this ball, will it be a wicket taking delivery or going for runs.
Weak focus to intense focus
During weak focus we have no thoughts in mind. Then, the next moment, we have to shift it to intense focus where we have to be very attentive. So, this shift of focus is vital and difficult.
For example, for wicket keepers the weak focus moments are when bowlers are walking back to the mark. Intense focus for the wicket keepers starts when bowler starts to run up until the ball comes into the hands. If at any point focus is weak when it should be intense, you risk performing badly.
With this kind of focus, the chances of mental fatigue are high. We deal with it by using “Switch on” and “Switch Off” modes.
How to improve focus
During practice sessions, use match-like situations that focuses on mental skills.
Coaches should allow players to be tired and play, make decisions and even mistakes. Confident coaches will sit back and observe during this kind of practice session. The key is for players to reflect on and learn from such sessions rather than just have mistakes pointed out and mindlessly corrected. Then you will develop as an intelligent cricketer, not just a skilled cricketer.
With this in mind, here are key questions to ask,
- What are the things to focus on the most, and what should be the duration of focus?
- What is the shift of focus; broad to narrow, internal to external, weak to intense? Learning how to shift focus will give you a great advantage towards mastering the game.
- What are the cues given by the batsman or bowlers?
- How can you practice to learn to shift focus from broad to narrow, internal to external and weak to intense?
Answer these questions and you will have good mental control during difficult and pressurised situations. This kind of art of shifting focus is very difficult to master but will take you to the next level.
Khyati Gulani is an ex-cricketer now coaching state and academy cricket in Delhi.