A lot of people say that to be a professional cricketer you need that special indefinable “x-factor”. It’s a magical trait that you either have, or not. If you don’t have it you will never get it.
This is lazy thinking.
Yes, of course you need something special. But there is no way this is an indefinable thing. It’s just something that is difficult to measure.
Runs and wickets are easy. You look at the stats and decide who the best is. But runs and wickets come from the more woolly psychological side. If I was to try and define the x-factor in cricket I would put it down to these things:
Able to handle and overcome setbacks
As we know, the difference between a good player and an average player is mainly down to how well and how much they practice. Those who are highly motivated put in extra hours which pay off in the middle in both increased skill and robust confidence.
But when things go wrong, the good players are able to put it behind them quickly. Whether it’s bowling a bad ball, or having a bad season, the player trusts himself to break through the rut through sheer hard work.
In his online coaching course, JP Duminy talks about this. He has had several setbacks in his career including a season where he almost gave up on cricket before he even got a professional contract. But instead of deciding he wasn’t good enough he tried harder and longer and eventually broke through to International cricket at a very young age.
Average players, on the other hand, take a setback as a sign they can do no better. They reel back the passion and practice and settle. They are Mikka Bozu.
The appearance of control
This is really an extension of the idea of robust confidence: something Mark Garaway first introduced at PitchVision Academy. Here the player always seems to be on top, even when things are not going the right way.
Think of players like Dhoni, Hayden, Flintoff and Warne. They all have so much confidence in their ability that you never feel like you have the upper hand (even when you do). That gives them an aura.
But this is an aura you can copy.
You can’t fake it - not for long anyway - but with a long term commitment you can make it. Just don’t think you need the “x-factor”. Stick to stuff you can control.