Have you ever wondered how you can turn a slump in form into feeling on top of the world in one ball?
You know the feeling. You are batting terribly and feel like you will never middle another one. They you get a soft half volley and you nail it right out of the screws. It screams to the boundary and you are transformed. As the commentators often say, sometimes it just takes one good shot to feel good again.
Yet, nothing has changed. You are exactly the same person you were one ball before, with exactly the same skills.
What has happened is all in your mind. Yes, it feels totally real because you have just done something awesome. You haven't changed. You have imagined ahead to future balls and realised you can continue to be awesome. This is a kind of visualisation we don't often think about, yet as you have seen, it's one of the most effective mental skills you have.
"Just in time" visualisation
When you normally think of visualising, you probably imagine the opening batsman in the middle of the pitch before play starts. He is thinking through his innings. This works well.
And then there is the other kind of visualising. The kind that you do during a game in the gaps between balls. The kind that can destroy your confidence, or send it soaring.
When you know that these moments between balls are little pockets of "just in time" thinking, you can free yourself of the tyranny of bad form. You realise instead that the previous ball is no more or less important than any other. No mater what happens you can use "just in time" visualisation to stay focused and level.
How do you do it?
It's not that different from the visualisation you have been doing already (click here for a primer if you are not sure). You simply take the moment between balls to think about doing something insanely well.
Have you just played and missed?
It's time to put that negative thought about your weakness outside off stump aside and instead think back for a moment to a game where you were hitting it through the covers at will. It even works if you have never creamed it through the covers at will!
Of course, the main difference is that you only have a few seconds. Time is of the essence. So when the balls goes dead, and with haste not speed, do the following:
- Consciously look to put the last ball out of your mind.
- Imagine the last ball again, this time with a successful outcome.
- Decide if this outcome is the right tactical approach.
- Tell yourself something generally positive like "Today, I am ready to be at the top of my game".
- Clear your mind ready to play the next ball.
This takes discipline as the monkey in your mind will be saying "forget the mumbo-jumbo, you just played a bad shot, you must be about to get out". Perhaps the monkey is right, but it's more likely to be wrong. It's basing it's evidence on the factually incorrect peak end rule. In reality you know you are able to recover from a poor shot as long as you are still at the crease. Tell your monkey that all will be well by showing it how good you really are.
And what about when you just play a good shot?
You can use the same method to make sure you don't get carried away and start trying to hit everything. Tell yourself that one good shot does not make you Chris Gayle. Remember the last ball fondly then put it aside, telling yourself that you are ready to play the ball on it's merits and the tactical situation.
One good example of this is hitting a spinner over the top for a boundary. If you do it well the fielder goes back and the spinner will probably fire one in because she fears a repeat. So, calmly take the run she gives you. Hit the ball out to the boundary runner to complete five runs in two balls.
Using this trick, you can stay focused on the bigger picture, even when in the heat of battle. This will keep you calmer, more focused and more confident in the middle.