Speak to any great cricketer and they will tell you one of the secrets of their success is to play the game one ball at a time.
If you have ever tried to put a mistake out of your mind during a match you will know that playing like this is easier than it sounds. In fact, the phrase has become something of a cliché for players seeking advice when going through a dip in form.
But a cliché it is not.
When you examine the phrase you start to realise its just code for a set of tools that all players can use and benefit from: Sort of an extension of common sense cricket thinking.
What are those tools?
- Separate thinking and doing. When you step over the boundary line there is no more time to prepare. Of course you always need to be aware of the game situation from a strategic viewpoint, but if you have not practised effectively and don't know your role you are trying to combine thinking and doing. If you try to think on the pitch you become paralysed by your own self-analysis.
- Kill the negativity. It's impossible to think about nothing when you are playing but you can choose how you think. If you find yourself focussing on negatives (like mistakes you made or things you are worried that you can't do) you are focussing on failure. Instead use the stop technique and refocus on success through visualising what you can do or telling yourself you have prepared and are ready.
- Trust your ability. Unless you are very inexperienced or very bad you are bound to have had success on the pitch. Reminding yourself that you can score runs or take wickets will give you greater confidence to just play in the way you know you can. You need to stay within your own limitations and stick to doing what has brought success in the past.
In doing these things you will find yourself naturally playing rather than overthinking everything. The game becomes easier because the pressure of self-analysis is reduced. You are playing one ball at a time and enjoying your cricket more.
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