There is a large mental side to cricket and it is often our thinking that gets us out or stops us bowling well.
There are a lot of distractions going on through the course of a game: In the middle, waiting to bat, waiting to field, taking lunch, tea or a drinks break. What is required is a set of routines or processes you can employ, almost without thinking, that will allow you more time and ‘brain space’ to focus on playing the game as well as possible.
These routines will vary from person to person but there are some fundamentals:
- Must be easily performed and repeated. You want to save your mental and physical energy for the game, so employing a complex or lengthy routine will be counter-productive. Where possible try and build on something you already do naturally.
- Must be completely within your control. Make it what you do, not what you and a mate do to get ready to play. He may be sick one weekend and then what? If you need some equipment then make sure you have that equipment in your kit, not something you borrow on game day. If you want to do some skipping every so often while you are waiting to bat, get your own skipping rope!
- Make it specific to your own personality, physical makeup and mental strengths and weaknesses. Some people respond better to images than words, some respond better to sounds. Experiment and discover if listening to a CD has a more lasting effect on your ability to concentrate than reading a note or visualizing an image. Is skipping a better mini activity for you to perform while waiting to bat than using a dot mat?
- Must not be disruptive or a source of distraction to your team mates. Remember you are playing a team game and the team will have its own warm up routines etc. Remember that these routines are designed to get the team ready to play, so they should be performed with 100% effort every time. Your own routines will be added to these so make sure you have the time to perform your routines as well as the teams. If you are doing something that may be distracting, take yourself away from the group when appropriate and work on your own.
Let's look at some examples.
Game day routines for a junior club cricketer
This guy will probably be playing a reasonably short game with quite a bit of coach input. Typically he might arrive at the ground, put his gear down in the change room or wherever the team is basing itself and then go out to the centre and have a look at the pitch as well as the outfield and the length of the boundaries.
Having done this he will take part in the team warm up, during which everyone does a few throwdowns, some target bowling and some fielding. Our fellow might concentrate on:
- His set up and initial movement during throwdowns.
- Working his front arm when target bowling.
- Bending at the knees and at the waist when fielding.
Once the toss is decided, if he is on the batting side he must keep track of wickets and overs and make sure he is ready to bat when called upon.
He may get his gear ready when he is 3 wickets away from batting, put his pads, box and thigh guard on when he is 2 wickets away and keep his helmet and gloves with him when he is next in.
Once he is in, his thoughts and actions between deliveries should form a simple routine:
Relax; self talk: “Watch the Ball like a Hawk – Move to the Ball – Control the Bat” Check the field for gaps.
Once he has finished batting, the player should take some time to sit quietly and relax, have some food and drink if he is going to have to field later in the day and then rejoin his team mates.
If he is a bowler, perhaps some extra energy food and water would be taken on board. At the change of innings he must do a stretch and bowl a few deliveries, focusing on rhythm, line and length. When called on to bowl, he should mentally go through his list of 'Must Dos', for example: ‘Run through the crease, keep my head still, big wrist flick’.
He should have a routine for between deliveries to help him ‘fine tune’ his action and implement strategies to each batsman. Even a junior cricketer’s game day is full of smaller routines!
Game day routines for a senior club cricketer
The senior player will probably be playing in a longer form of the game so he should also develop some ‘waiting’ routines for when he is not directly involved in the match.
If he is waiting for a lengthy period of time with the pads on, he may get a skipping rope out of his bag and do a couple of minutes skipping. Or maybe he will produce a golf ball and do some underarm rebound catching in the change room (as long is it’s not distracting other players!).
If he is waiting to bowl, he may do a mini stretching routine every 4 or 5 overs so he is ready when called upon.
At the end of a days play, the senior player should do a stretch and a warm down routine before he leaves the ground. This will reduce his risk of muscle soreness, particularly helpful if he is playing a couple of days in a row.
Remember – the reason you introduce a routine is so that you can focus more acutely on the really difficult stuff: batting and bowling! Your mind must be uncluttered and your body ready to perform. Routines provide the necessary organisation.