photo credit: gingerninjah
People have started to notice. Time is catching up on you.
As you get older the 'promising youngster' tag has slowly vanished and your waistline is making the creep towards middle aged spread. In the past a rut of form was written off, but now you find selectors dropping you down a standard. They tell you they are giving the younger ones a chance but you suspect they think your eyes are going.
Is there a way back? Are you really past it or just out of form?
I believe that most older club cricketers are giving in to the ravages of time too early. With the right work at the right time,you can add many years to playing at the standard to which you have become accustomed. Even if the slip has begun.
Here are my 6 ways to reverse the decline in standard.
1. Use your hard learned knowledge
Experience goes a long way. Research into the difference between top level and average batsmen has proven that the top batsman have no better reactions but are better predictors of the line and length of the ball from subtle cues by the bowler. In other words, they are using their experience.
This applies to whatever you are doing on the cricket pitch.
You may not have the same zip in your bowling, but you know better than anyone else how to get batsmen out. You might not be as mobile in the field but you know your limits far more than the 17 year old who throws himself around wildly.
Also in the field you are most likely to have the trust of the captain and the respect of other players. Use this, become a student of both tactics and motivation and make yourself and indispensable part of the team's make up.
2. Protein: the anti-aging drug that works
Protein is highly underrated in club cricket (and society in general). According to nutritionist Dr. John Berardi, most people need to eat more. Increased protein consumption from lean, natural sources (beef, chicken, eggs, turkey and the like) improves your metabolism. That means less middle age creep fat and better retention of your youthful strength and power. Read the science bit here.
3. Trust your ability
It's a mistake to think a rut of form is the sign of inexorable decline. As we know, experience can more than compensate for physical deficiencies (something we can also slow the rate of decline in, see below).
You have had successes in your cricket career. You can't put every single one down to blind luck which means you have a certain ability. Now you can combine that ability with experience to rack up the runs and/or wickets. You just have to start by believing you can.
Self belief is a tricky thing though. It's a combination of setting yourself the right goals, being able to let go of mistakes and committing yourself to deliberate practice. If you do these three things you will have trust in your ability and success will follow.
4. Get intense
Weight gain and strength/power reduction with age is caused by the gradual slowing of your metabolic rate by 2-4% every 10 years. Intense exercise can hold this metabolic slip back by several decades. In other words, you can have almost exactly the same metabolism at 45 (or even 55) that you had at 25.
What kind of exercise does the job?
- Strength training 2-4 times a week
- Interval training 2-3 times a week
- Fielding drills based on fitness
- Batting/bowling in the nets with little rest
- A good hard Twenty20 match
If you are starting out you should start slow and build up with the eventual aim of doing some kind of intense training 5-6 days a week totalling 2-4 hours a week. These methods are backed by significant research.
photo credit: Lori Greig
5. Mother was right: Eat your greens
The health benefits of eating 5-10 portions of vegetables (plus some fruit) every day are well documented. For the aging cricketer, veg is critical to produce alkaline in the body. This preserves bone and muscle and again reduces the slowdown in metabolism we assume is inevitable.
Vegetables have several other benefits:
- They fill you up on less allowing you to control calories and therefore body fat.
- They are high in antioxidants which counters the damage cause by free radicals on your body.
- They help you maintain healthy eyesight.
- They have little effect on blood glucose which is good for keeping the fat off and the muscle on.
Green, leafy veg such as spinach, kale and sprouts pack a great punch but aim to get a variety of colours into the diet for maximum effect.
6. Remember you don't know it all
You can teach an old dog new tricks. The problem is that the dog often is too proud to learn. Don't be that dog.
Most club players stop getting coached around the age of 16 when they finish playing junior cricket. However, nobody is perfect so why not get coaching as an older player too. Most clubs have qualified coaches who would be only too happy to help with your technique. If you don't trust your club coach to do a good job then pay up for lessons from a professional at your first class ground.
Is all this more work than when you were 25? It is. Do you have less time to do these things than when you were a teenager? Almost certainly. Does age give you an excuse to wave a white flag and drop a standard?
Not as much as most people think.© Copyright miSport Holdings Ltd 2008