After a long layoff from his diary, miCricketCoach reader and cricketer Shaaz is back. He is a 14 year old all rounder who has already played for the UAE Under 15's, Young Talent Cricket Academy and Talent Cricket Club. In the future he plans on a long and illustrious International career. Follow his progress here.
I've learned a lot since I wrote the last post in this series. I've done a lot too.
I have been practicing regularly: At least an hour a day. However, I've had many setbacks along the way.
Once I twisted my ankle and got a stiff-neck type injury, something like cervical spondilitis (I can still feel the pain when I say that) at the same time. I had to get it treated and it was three weeks before I could play cricket again.
I also had to fight my way through a lot of stress, especially before exams, since I have to maintain academic standards too.
I realized that everything wasn't going the way I wanted it to. I decided to become a 24/7 athlete. I started making decisions by asking myself 'Will this help me with my cricket?', and every time I did, it gave me satisfaction throughout the day, satisfaction that I used to get only during practice sessions.
I started seeing things in a different light.
When I injured my right ankle, I started hopping around my house (and climbing stairs) on my left foot, and considered it training for my weaker left leg. Instead of usual practice, I learned relaxation techniques and did lots of visualization.
During my last vacation, when I visited India, I found out a lot of things about the structure of Indian cricket. I went to matches and found out about local players so that I knew how much competition I would have to face. I talked to the authorities of various schools that give importance to cricket in India.
I'll be going to India for my education once I finish my 10th grade.
I have also made lots of friends along the way, and they have all helped me. I have realized that I have lots of friends who could help me reach my goal of becoming a cricketer. I've heard somewhere that you are less than ten people away from anyone on earth.
Turning the negatives around
When I first started playing cricket, I would ask people if I could play for my country. They usually tell me it's hard or near impossible. They would say that only 11 players out a billion were selected to play for the country. This often left me in a negative mood.
But slowly, most of the players whom I thought would make great cricketers, started giving up.
The usual comments were:
- "There are too many good players"
- "You'll need lots of political connections"
- and lots more.
But when I simply believed that I still had chances and held on to my dream when my friends ditched theirs, I realized that this is how most of the players who could have become cricketers, end up not being one: Most of them give up cricket. Of all the various junior cricketers I know, only very few even believe they might be able to play a high level of cricket.
I started asking my coaches and friends different question:
"How can I become a great cricketer?"
I got excellent answers on how to practive and many stories about cricketer. Most coaches seem to know atleast one professional cricketer. I even learned that one of my coaches had played the 1996 World Cup!
After I asked one of my coaches this question, he took a great interest in me, and started helping me a lot during coaching sessions.
Most of my development as a player has been mental. My results as a batsman and bowler have improved tremendously, and are exactly where I want them to be.
I learn a lot every single day.
Once in a recent match I had trouble with my bowling. I realized it was the thick grass I was running in on. So, I started practicing on thick grass in my neighbourhood. The first day I did badly, but I made up for it on the second day. I went home from practice telling myself "Excellent. Now there's nothing stopping you Shaaz! I can't believe how fast I adapted!"
My excitement didn't last for long. The next day, all the balls I bowled strayed in line and length and I wasn't at my best. The thick grass made it hard for me to remain stable throughout. So without changing the way I run, I ran in looking at the stumps and made sure that the off stump didn't shake as I ran in. This worked great!
Then I became aware of another problem.
I couldn't bowl well after a long innings (I am opening bat and opening bowler). I twisted my back a lot to gain pace at times and my legs were weak. I ended up bowling with a mixed action, and strayed in line & length.
So I began practicing bowling after some batting and running, simulating match conditions.
I had long before read an article on miCoach on feeling the earth beneath you and breathing. As soon as I pictured myself as a tiny dot on the vast area of land on the earth, I realized that the earth was actually carrying me. A sense of lightness took over my body, and the way I ran changed (I guess it was the part of the feet I used to run that changed a bit).
These are things I learnt from trial and error and it's better than being coached directly.
You know what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong. You understand the full extent of your strengths and weaknesses.
I practice lots, and I also take time to check if I'm practicing correctly. I enjoy the hard work - it's really sad I have to call it 'hard' work!
It's pretty easy, and everything flows when you are enjoying the game and not trying too hard. It's just like what Malcolm Gladwell says - I don't even remember how I hit my sixes, it all happens in a flash!
Photo credit: Seema KK
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