When you hit nets you often feel no pressure. When you bat in a game you feel all the pressure.
To really find your best form you need to bridge the gap or you will play looser and not understand why "playing well in nets" is not translating to runs and wickets.
There is a way out of this mire. It just takes some planning, here's what to do.
Look for your method
There are lots of ways to deal with moments of pressure. Some people handle them naturally better than others, but you can change how you deal with it.
This comes with experience and regular reflection on how you were feeling. What was happening when you started to change how you played?
We like to think we will be fine, but how many times have you failed when chasing a score compared to when you are getting a total? I'm willing to bet most people get out far more quickly! Pressure may not be a physical thing, but a game situation certainly does change the way people play.
The key to having a method is to remember pressure comes from your own mind. If you can reframe it yourself, it calms you and allows you to play appropriately rather than under stress.
The steps are:
- Recognise the game situations when you feel pressure
- Accept this pressure and have an individual way of reducing it.
- Think of your options, decide which one will give you the best chance of success, and commit to it fully.
This is tricky to do in games if you don't already know how you deal with pressure. So, use both regular review after matches and practice to add some pressure.
Use Pressure nets
You can add pressure to nets in lots of ways. None will be as good as actual matches. You cannot recreate the feeling of having to walk in and score 33 runs in five overs with two wickets left (or bowl the last over of a T20 with six runs needed). There are few tricks you can pull off:
With all of these tricks, it's crucial to reflect on how you felt. It's easy to hide the feeling of pressure under a justification. You might say "I had to go for a big shot because the guy at the other end was batting too slowly". This may be true, but did it come from cold calculation or panicking? Only you can know for sure, so don't lie to yourself.
Did the added pressure make you lose focus from the task and do something that was not the best plan?
If so, how can you stay focused on the task rather than on the anxiety of the idea of failing?
Can you discuss things with the coach or trusted team mate as you go through the pressure to get their views and feedback on the best tactics?
Practice under pressure is tougher because it's difficult to recreate and you can't see pressure like you can technique. People tend to prefer to play safe in training and learn about their skill under pressure in games. This does work - if you reflect well - but a few higher pressure sessions combined with a good, honest discussion about how you deal with anxiety caused by game situations will speed your development up greatly.