There is a lot of talk about England losing the first Ashes Test because they were undercooked. But what does this mean?
There doesn't seem to be clear definition of the term. But underlying the press coverage is the assumption that some English players have not played enough competitive games to be ready for the Ashes.
My immediate thought is this: Is there an optimum level that allows cooking to perfection? If so, what is it?
To answer that we need to compare an Englishman with an Australian.
Steve Harmison looked lost during the game and was heavily criticised for not bowling enough overs this year. Glen Mcgrath had not played for nearly a year and took six wickets in the first innings.
Both, by definition, were undercooked.
Yet only Harmison played badly.
We can only guess why this was. But here is why I think McGrath hit the ground running:
- Mental Approach. McGrath is a confidence machine. He believes his own hype and quite rightly. He has the perfect attitude to perform and knows how to deal with his mistakes.
- Genetics. Like all top players, McGrath can thank his parents for the uncanny ability to bowl like a metronome. His genes allow him to do the simple stuff easily and makes it possible for him to reach superhuman heights through his work ethic.
- Development. A great deal of athleticism is learned (or not learned) between the ages of 6-16. During this key time the amount of sport and physical learning impacts on you for the rest of your life. Miss out and you have to work harder to catch up.
Notably, the amount of competitive overs bowled is not as important as these three factors (otherwise McGrath and Flintoff would not have bowled so well instantly).
What is vital is this: The less of the three factors above you have, the more overs you need.
Also, how hard someone works has much to do with it. You can bet Harmison put in as many hours in the gym and nets as McGrath did.
In short, there is no optimum time in the middle it's far more complicated than just having another game or two. What is important is knowing yourself.
If you need more practice time because you are mentally less prepared, genetically unlucky or didn't grow up playing sport then you need to practice and play more to avoid being undercooked.
So work out your personal balance between playing, training and time away from cricket.
The latter is just as important.
More on cricket coaching and psychology soon, so subscribe for free updates.© Copyright miSport Holdings Ltd 2008