One difficult piece of coaching advice is this: Play one ball at a time.
It's a simple way to put the concept of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the ability to stay in the moment with your thoughts and actions despite external distractions. In all cricket disciplines this is a skill that is more than handy. You are calm under pressure and less likely to make mistakes as a bowler, batsman or fielder.
It also applies to your cricket practice. It's quite possible to be distracted by going through the motions rather than doing practice which is appropriate, progressive and in the context of a wider plan.
How do you focus on becoming mindful?
The secret is to be constantly reviewing what you are doing.
- When playing, are you switching off between balls and playing each ball on its merits?
- How quickly are you able to clear your mental decks and get back to ready?
- When training, are you following a plan that is relevant to your individual needs?
- Are you adapted to a certain way of training, or adaptable different methods?
- Are you focusing on the intensity of your work or the quality? More does not always mean better.
- Are you following tradition or willing to beat your own path?
If you are constantly asking yourself these kinds of questions and acting on your answers you are being mindful.
That may be simple to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon when you are planning your training, but there are more challenging moments.
If you are bowling at the death in an evening match you may have a matter of moments between balls to decide your strategy before you have to bowl.
This is where the skill of mindfulness really comes to the fore. Are you fully in the moment focused on your plan, or worried about the fact the guy in front of you has been crashing it all over the place?
Next time you find yourself under a moment of pressure like this, remember to be mindful, set your plan and stay in the moment.