Heart in the Oven, Head in the Fridge: Coaching Control in Critical Game Moments | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Heart in the Oven, Head in the Fridge: Coaching Control in Critical Game Moments

The next element in our guide to recognising and developing mental toughness in our players relates to "Critical Moment Control" (CMC).

What is CMC? It's often described by the quote "heart in the oven and head in the fridge".

Players high in CMC always make the right judgements under pressure. Not only do they make the right decisions, they also follow through and deliver the goods: Clear mind, clear thinking, and unwavering execution.

These players control the situation with a strong mind: The situation does not control them. They show skilful thinking, skilful risk taking, and skilful execution. Each one is a great player to have around when it comes to finishing games off.


Examples of players who display CMC in buckets:

There is a young player at Millfield who has risen rapidly through the ECB Player Development model because he has CMC in buckets. His ability to make excellent decisions in extreme pressure situations has caught the eye of a 1st Class Director of Cricket and some of the ECB's finest coaches.

There is no doubt that this particular player has a personality that helps him to remain calm when the pressure gauge rises but his rapid development has been helped by some coaching interventions and strategies like these:

  1. Scenarios based on small phases of the game. (last over, last 3 overs) This is the type of practice that Malinga does both in nets against team mates and in his target bowling in the middle. The more realistic he can make his practice, the more pressure that he places on the practice, the more effective it is.
  2. Honest review and do it again. "Repeat until you get it right. Once you get it right, do it over and over again". Graeme Smith would insist on running the same CMC "plays" or "scenarios" until he or the team mastered their responses to those particular situations. Smith knew once you had mastered a certain scenario in practice then it makes it easier to stay calm when a similar situation arises in the middle. This is one of the reasons why he was able to develop and take his side to World Number One Team across all 3 formats.
  3. Finish a session with a one ball challenge and consequence. Today, we ran a throwing competition between 2 players: 1 ball. 1 throw. 1 stump. The aim was to hit the stump. If both players hit the stump then it is the nearest to hitting the base of the stump that wins the contest. If neither player hit the stump then they both do the consequence. Today's losing consequence was to clean the whiteboard.

Some of the individual strategies that help players to maximise their CMC capacity are:

  • Breathing strategies. Slow your breathing to control the body and mind. Centering and belly breathing are great techniques to learn in the quest for Critical Moment Control
  • Smile when the pressure rises. This action has a chemical effect which helps to relax the body and calm our minds.
  • Slow the game down. Use your pre-delivery routine to settle you. MS Dhoni will never be rushed into facing a Critical Moment Delivery. He is in charge. MS would say "you bowl when I want you to bowl at me".

Give some of these things a go in your next sessions and then dominate the next critical moment in game time.

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