Jordan Finney underwent research into the mental side of batting. In this article he explains what he found in his study, and how you can apply his findings when you are under pressure as a batsman.
What does the batting powerplay tell us about cricket at every level of the game?
It is obvious that increasing the number of fielders placed in 30 yard circle will cut down singles and make boundaries a more effective way of scoring. There should be no reason why batsmen cannot clear the 30 yard circle at least.
Yet since the introduction of the batting powerplay, it has been more effective for the bowling side, with the number of wickets taken during this period increasing noticeably.
This provided me with food for thought for my study.
Dealing with pressure
I figured that there must be a mental side of the game that affects batsman during this period of the game, and I ultimately wanted to find out:
- Were there increased stress levels during the batting powerplay?
- What caused these increased stress levels?
- What did the batsman try to do to cope with these increased stress levels?
- Were these stressors and coping strategies common across the entire subject base?
The was the starting point of my study called Common Stressors and Subsequent Coping Strategies Used During High Pressure Situations in Elite Cricket: The Batting Powerplay
From the very start of the very first pilot interview, it was noticeable to me that there was increased stress, and increased pressure during the batting powerplay.
Every single person interviewed made the point that everything seems to be "heightened" during the batting powerplay period; general pressures related to that game, the pressures of facing a particular bowler, and the pressures placed on the batsman from outside of the game.
My questioning progressed on from this and delved deeper into the hidden meanings.
- The vast majority of stressors were specific to the sport of cricket, and not highlighted among stressor research in other sports, highlighting that cricketers require different mental approaches than other sports people.
- The majority of stressors revolved around personal game related factors such as: Required run-rate, lack of boundaries, peer evaluation, facing dot balls and loss of wickets.
- Opposition effects were the second most common source of stressor, examples such as: field Changes, change of bowler, matching oppositions powerplay
- The majority of stressors experienced during the batting powerplay are related to run scoring.
- The majority of stressors were experienced by at least two thirds of the subject base.
- Multiple coping strategies were used by batsman in an attempt to counteract one stressor. Rather than using just one technique to cope with one stressor.
- The batsman relying on their own knowledge of the game and their own planning was the most common forms of coping strategy used.
- The use of multiple strategies means that batsman are thinking about a large number of things during the batting powerplay.
Does any of this ring a bell with you in your own pressure situations?
How understanding powerplay pressure helps you
It's clear how much can be gained from an academic perspective when looking into the batting powerplay, but how is this related to playing and coaching of cricket?
Firstly from this study, you learn that you - or the players you coach - are not alone with these thoughts. This allows for much better practices for dealing with stressors.
You can then adopt techniques and training methods that will allow you to deal with these thoughts. You do this by;
- Block out the instant idea of "lack of runs"
- Focus on the opportunity for runs.
- Understand scoring areas better, and score in safe areas without doing anything uncharacteristic.
At the moment batsmen use multiple strategies, often without clear thought. You are thinking about so much during such a short period of time you are adding to stress rather than dealing with it.
The role of the coach in pressure
In my mind, coaches should look to try and replicate stressful conditions and not only look to coach batsman technically. To understand, batsmen need to air what they are thinking, which allows the coach to help them come up with ways of keeping their brain clear of all negative thoughts and keep their focus on the main objectives.
Similarly, understanding player stressors and coping strategies helps coaches to get to know their players better. This is good for current players, and for future players under the same coach with similar personalities.
Remember your brain
We have all walked back from the middle thinking "why did I play that shot?"
It's clear from my research that the increased thought processes are the reasoning behind uncharacteristic stroke play.
I believe more can be done from a coaching and playing perspective in preparation and in reflection to help players keep stress free.