Warning: Thinking can seriously hurt your cricket
Who wouldn't want to be streetwise with thoughts and plans at their fingertips?
Raj is an opening batsman. He is a slow starter, but is able to score freely once he gets his feet moving. His coach has been helping him with some technical points.
Meanwhile his team-mates have been teasing him for his slow starts.
He goes out to the middle in his latest game hoping to score more freely now he has made some adjustments. The opening bowlers are accurate and use swing to beat his bat on a few occasions. Under the pressure his footwork stays sluggish and he can't seem to pick up any runs.
He wonders if his old technical errors are back. He is concerned his team mates will be on his back again for not getting quick runs. He starts to wonder if the bowlers are too good for him.
His doubts stop him thinking about playing the ball.
Before long he nicks off after a tortured half an hour and a single figure score.
Raj's story is common. We live in a world of increasing information and decreasing time to think it through properly. The result is confusion and an unclear mind: Over thinking, underperforming.
One thing really good players are able to do is think at the right time to avoid this confusion.
Players like Kevin Pietersen (at least according to former England analyst Mark Garaway) are as great at planning and practicing as they are at their skills. They do all their thinking long before they get to the middle.
Our brains are wired that way: Able to do simple tasks without pain or confusion, but resistant to complex jobs. That's why the mantra "see the ball, hit the ball" is popular; it pans down a complex task like batting into a simple job.
But to be able to see it and hit it (or bowl it) we need to have put in the hard work in practice. You can only have a repeatable action if you have worked on making it repeatable in the nets. We need to think hard before play then switch into autopilot in the middle.
Some coaches talk about "being in the zone" when players are doing well. It's a handy catch-all term for being in form and not having to think about it: Everything just happens.
When we think too much we can't get into the zone and we can't play at our best, so the best thing to do once you are playing is to stop thinking and just play the game.
The irony is, you can only do that when you do your thinking beforehand. Get your timing right and you will be a better cricketer.
For more ways to plan and prepare mentally for cricket check out How to Use Mental Training to Boost your Game on PitchVision Academy
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