The end of the cricket season is the perfect time to reflect.
You might be relieved or sad (or both) that it’s over, but whatever you feel, take a moment while things are fresh in your mind to review your season. It’s a fantastic way to start next year with a bang.
Here are the key questions to ask yourself before you bed down for the winter.
How was my technique?
Over a season, techniques can change. Bad habits can creep in, or you work around things that are not ideal. You can also lock in your technique further when it’s going well.
Take some time to review your technique and decide if it served you well this year.
For example, say you have a technical flaw that leads you to “close off” when you drive. Did this stunt your ability to score, or did you work within it well?
Technical perfection is impossible. However, if you know your own technique well, you can decide if you need to start on the road to making changes over the winter, or learn tactics that hide the errors and build your strengths.
Don’t stop at batting or bowling technique. You can also review how you run, catch, throw and dive in the field. Most people can improve at least one of these aspects over an off season, which one can you do?
Did I fill my role?
Every cricketer has a job to do. Ask yourself if you did it.
Perhaps you are the opening batsman, told to thrive against the new ball and put a high value on your wicket. Nobody minds if you are 30 not out after 20 overs because they know you have built a platform for the side. Did this happen regularly or did you find yourself getting out trying to up the scoring rate because you felt the pressure?
Every role has a story to tell that goes beyond the averages: Things like holding up an end with the ball, surviving a tough spell of bowling and making sure no one takes a quick single to you never appear in the numbers, but make a difference to matches.
So, think back to your role. Think about the times when you had the chance to put it into action and decide if you did it well this year.
If you were not sure of your job, you know you need to find it out as soon as you can.
If you did things well, pat yourself on the back. It’s time to think how you can do it even better.
If you were found wanting, it’s time to ask if the role was wrong for your style of play, or you just needed to find some form. Either way, you have a path forward.
How was my self-belief?
How you believe in yourself is crucial to your game. It drives how much you train, what actions you take in the middle and how you do under pressure.
So, ask yourself, did you believe in your ability, even in the bad times?
Those with lower levels of belief tend to,
- Feel a lot of anxiety before batting or bowling.
- Train less and with less intensity or focus.
- Perform inconsistently, and usually poorly in critical moments.
Of course, no one is entirely free of doubt or inconsistency. That’s called being a human being. The key point is how these thoughts influence your actions. If you are doing less work and making more mistakes because you are tense and nervous about it, you are sabotaging your chance of success.
Use your actions as a guide to your confidence.
If - in hindsight - you thought they were lacking then decide to take steps to improve this area.
On the other hand, if you can say you built confidence through your actions this year, you can think how to further develop your toughness under pressure.
Was I part of the team?
Every cricket team is a group of contrasting characters thrown together under a common goal. Your part in that team has very little to do with your performance on the field. So, the next question makes you think about how well you did as a team-player.
Were you quick to recognise the success of others in their roles? Did you set the example by how hard you train and how much help you give others? Are you supportive of guys in the middle once you are out? Are you as passionate about being a non-striker running for your teammate as you are running for yourself?
These are all signs of your character as a teammate rather than batsman or bowler.
Not everyone is an extroverted socialiser who brings the side together with charisma and wit. Yet even the most reserved, self-centered person can be a crucial part of the team.
What do I do next?
Once you have assessed your year, you can decide how to move forward.
This is important because a lot of players assume they can just turn up to winter nets and let someone else - usually a coach - guide them. Even the best coaches can’t guide you fully because you are on your own journey. So, you need to be the one who drives your progress.
You can still use the coach of course. Get them to help you by providing a sounding board to your aims and accountability to the barriers that you might encounter. This process leads to conversations about strategies to prevent history repeating itself.
Sit down with the coach and dig down into details beyond your big aims.
For example, if you are a batsman who wants to better hit the gaps, tell the coach who will follow up with questions like "which gaps?", "which type of bowling?", and "what shots will help with this?"
When you get into detail, you build a checklist that you can tick off as you move your skills along.
Know what your strengths are and be ready to build them into super strengths. Know your weaknesses and be ready to either work hard on them or hide them.
Find out your role, and think how you can build your tactics and technique around it.
Consider your self-belief and look to change your actions to create a positive feedback loop that you can take into next season. For example, if you are lacking confidence against spin, you can take a winter learning to sweep and use your feet with robust confidence build on real actions.
A little work at the end will reap huge rewards when the cricket starts again.