The 2013 ICC Champions Trophy Final gave us a perfect insight into the impact that stress can have on performance and ultimately, the outcome of key matches.
The Chimp Paradox is a brilliant book by Dr. Stephen Peters (Team Sky Racing and Team GB Cycling Psychologist) which includes a section on dealing with stress in a multitude of sporting and everyday life situations.
Stephen talks about dealing with, rather than reacting to stressful situations. He then takes the reader through a series of steps which builds what he calls an autopilot.
With rehearsal and practice autopilots become innate responses to stressful situations. This, in turn, increases our chances of success.
So here is a step by step guide to building your player's cricketing autopilot:
1. Recognising stress and change it
A player will often recognise that they he is reacting to stress when he takes an option that he doesn't like, or when his body starts to tell him that things aren't operating at an optimal level.
Once we recognise and accept that stress is present we can change our attitude and mindset towards it.
One thing you can coach for this situation is to use the word 'change' to trigger his mind towards a more appropriate or viable option. Inevitably, this is one that has been practised more often and has achieved better results in the past.
2. The pause button
Another method you can present is picturing a big pause button. Tell your players to "press it" when they feel they are rushing decision making or pre-delivery routine.
This will allow time for more logical options to surface rather than emotion driving poor options and reactive decision making.
3. Escape: stepping back from the situation
Obviously, in cricket matches, we don't have time to be able to walk off the field and reflect overnight (unless you're playing first class) so an example of a stepping back mechanism in cricket is this: When you are batting, walking away from the crease slightly, taking yourself out of the stressful environment.
Collect your thoughts, slow yourself down and re-enter the crease when you are ready. Alec Stewart did this brilliantly during his career and Ali Cook is also a master of this technique.
4. The helicopter view and getting perspective
I often talk about a birds eye view of the field when batters are picturing scoring options. Our 2D view at ground level can be limiting and cause stress in itself as we can't see the scoring space clearly.
Having a helicopter or birds eye view opens up options as we see space that wasn't initially apparent.
Jeremy Snape talks about "Balcony Boy".
Talk to your players about being able to zoom to this picture. Ask them "What would you be speaking about on the balcony where you can see the whole picture if you were watching yourself?"
Again, this helps to gain a perspective on any given situation.
5. Having a plan
Going through the above points will provide a fantastic foundation to build a logical plan.
Once players change the the way they view the situation, I would be surprised if they weren't able to come up with a logical and achievable plan to deal with the situation at hand.
Make sure your cricketers are asking themselves: "How will this plan pan out given the present situation?"
Once a person has decided what options are available he can tackle the challenge with confidence.
Nothing helps finalise the journey from stressful reactions to positive solutions better than a smile.
It helps us feel better too!
One simple method is to think back to your last stressful situation and imagine yourself going through this process.
It's clear India did this better than England at Edgbaston. How are you going to integrate methods for dealing with pressure into your sessions?