With unending scrutiny highlighting their tiniest flaws, cricketers must stay mentally focused to perform better
Recently, Shikhar Dhawan made news when he said he didn’t take the help of mental coaches while considering yoga and music his go-to-mode. He spoke about practising guided meditation and using sleep stories and mindfulness audios, which help get him adequate rest before a big day on the field.
While international cricketers today are assisted by a battery of support staff — from trainers and physiotherapists to mental fitness coaches — to help them deal with various situations, it’s not surprising that many use different techniques to remain calm and composed before, during and after their matches.
In fact, in a 2005-study published in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, the authors Stephen J Bull, Christopher J Shambrook, Wil James and Jocelyne E Brooks called cricket “a sport that requires ‘chronic’ mental toughness”. Not surprisingly, mental training has increasingly become a core part of cricketers’ lives.
In our bid to try and understand the go-to techniques some of the players use, former India batsman Lalchand Rajput reveals to us that the older generation of players did not have the ‘luxury’ of a long support staff.
“To be honest, when we played, the ‘support-staff’ consisted of a manager who was usually a former player. For mental peace, though, we used to do a lot of yoga, visualisation, etc. Yoga always calmed many of us down and be mentally strong,” he recalls.
Mind over matter
While Yusuf Pathan, the all-rounder, is grateful for the nice support staff system now to help him remain calm and relaxed, his go-to for staying grounded and focused has been prayers.
“I make it a point to pray before every match… basically try to guide myself by self-observation and understanding what’s to be done and how to improve myself as a player,” he shares, adding that he’s never missed a prayer before a big match. “Through prayers, I also realise God is with me.”
Wicket-keeper Farokh Engineer reaffirms that all players have their own way of getting mentally and physically motivated and prepped up before an important match. “I was reliably informed that RCB even had their own resident comedian in their bubble, possibly to avoid boredom or to cheer them up,” he points out, although adding that what suits one may not necessarily suit others. “Every person is different and has their own ways of motivating themselves.”
Former spinner M Venkataramana also believes that mind-training and mental toughness is getting all the more important these days especially because players play many forms of cricket back-to-back over a short period.
“Players could go through various phases in that period, and not everyone can handle the pressure or the change in format or the good days and bad days on the field in the same manner. Some need help, while others might be able to sort it out themselves... so I am expecting players to take help from experts in this field,” he adds. Then before signing off, he states, “Handling ups and downs and staying grounded are all qualities that come with experience, after one goes through all these phases in their career. Ultimately, players understanding their own capabilities and who can handle pressure well will go through this journey smoothly.”