Picture in your mind a Ferrari Formula 1 car: Strikingly red, super sleek and powerful.
When the Ferrari team arrive at a track for a race the car is ready to do its job of going round a track at breakneck speed. 90% of the work is done far away from race day.
But over the course of several days and trips round the track, the team fine-tune the car to the specifics of the race. The engine is tuned, the aerodynamics is tweaked, and fractions of seconds are shaved from lap times.
It’s this last 10% that is the toughest, because it makes the most difference.
And when it comes to cricket, you are the car and your match day preparation is the fine-tuning.
Like that Ferrari, all the tuning in the world is going to make no difference if you arrive with a bad car in the first place. But if you have trained well, the final hours and minutes before you see your own green light are the difference between winning and losing.
What does this tuning look like?
There are 4 areas you need to think about as the game approaches.
Get in a routine
Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all go into a match in a certain mental state. This could be anything from hyped up as an opening bowler to calmly focused as a top order batsman.
It can also be negative: flat in the field, distracted, even hung over.
And it all starts from the moment we get up. Long before the first ball is bowled.
Good players are aware of what works best for them and how to achieve control on the morning of the match. The key is to have a set routine.
Routine works because it gives you a feeling of control. You are not stressed by surprises like finding you are missing a boot 5 minutes before you have to go out and field.
But everyone is different so there are no rules for what this routine should be.
Some players thrive on order and will want a very precise routine for everything from how the kit is packed to what warm up drills they do. Others will be more laid back. Whatever your own opinions, don’t forget their may be team rules to consider too.
However, as long as you feel in control with an uncluttered mind then your mental preparation is on track.
Some simple tricks to help you get in the right place are:
- Having a checklist that covers equipment, food and drink that you need to take to the match, when you need to leave and other practical matters.
- Knowing what warm up exercises and drills you want to perform before play.
- Reviewing your goals for the match and season
- Visualising success by standing in the middle and thinking about how you will get your wickets and runs
- Thinking about how conditions will change your tactics
- Looking at cue cards
- Paying attention in the team talk
None of these are vital to your success, but getting your head right is and if these tools help you get there then they are doing a job. So experiment with them and if they work, make them part of your routine.
You are what you eat
Thinking back to our Ferrari, the Italian car-makers wouldn’t put bad fuel into the engine on race day. You shouldn’t put bad fuel into yourself on match day either.
Apart from the long term benefits of feeling better, having less fat and more muscle, a well fuelled body keeps the fatigue away longer.
That’s vital for the closing moments of a crucial match.
But eating right is a combination of factors that are more than just what you eat, and any eating rules you follow are only as good as your ability to stick to them 90% of the time. F1 cars never have a sneaky sip on inferior fuel.
I have faith in you though.
So here is what research says you should eat on the day of the match:
- Eat whole foods that are as unprocessed as possible (eggs, meat, vegetables, fruit, fish, nuts, etc.)
- Don’t worry about ‘carbing up’. It’s perfectly reasonably to eat starchy carbohydrates from whole food sources (rice, quinoa, potatoes, beans, oats) but there is no need to go mad. You’re not running a marathon.
- Breakfast on a meal rich in nutrients, especially protein. Never skip it.
- Remember processed food like bread, pasta, cakes and chips are not ideal sources of nutrients. They are not banned from your diet but should make up 10% or less of what you eat in a week (let alone on a match day).
- Eat at regular intervals, ideally every 2-3 hours.
- Have your last meal before the match starts 1-2 hours before play begins.
- Eat during the tea and lunch intervals, ideally with whole foods.
- During the match feel free to take in ‘liquid energy’ in the form of a drink that combines protein and carbs (example: chocolate milk) if you are involved in play (i.e. Not just waiting to bat).
If you find these ideas hard to follow you won’t be the first. Eating habits are notoriously difficult to change alone. That’s why I recommend Precision Nutrition to help you through it. It’s perfect for cricketers at any level (I know because I tried it over 3 years ago and I’m still sticking with it).
In part 2 we will go on to look at the final moments before the game. Get the free newsletter to get the article delivered directly to your inbox.