Preparation for a game - Opening the Innings
It will be safe to say that cricket is more a
mental game than a physical one. Many players who
have had some limitations on the technical front
have succeeded at the international level due to
their mental toughness and temperament. Steve Waugh
is an appropriate example in that regard. Mental
toughness makes 'great' players out of 'good'
Hence, it is necessary to prepare oneself mentally
before every match. The preparation can begin by
developing a routine before every match or every
practice session. This will help develop a positive
mind-set. However, this routine should provide for
flexibility. Lack of the ability to adapt to
changing situations can prevent a player from
realizing his fullest potential.
Apart from normal practice, one should include
relaxation and 'mental practice' into one's
routine. Breathing, the core of yoga, is the best
relaxation activity that can be practiced before
taking the crease.
Another aspect of preparation is to be aware of the
opponents' strategy against you, and to try and
Each position in the batting order has its own
special mental demands. Of course, the
match-situation influences this demand. For opening
batsmen as well as tail-enders, there is scope to
sharpen their skills by understanding the basic
details of the game. Mental toughness and sharpness
allow a player to comprehend these details better.
Matthew Hayden 'meditating' on the pitch on the
eve of a game.
An opening batsman must be courageous and have the
ability to react quickly against fast or
medium-pace bowlers. Openers like Sunil Gavaskar
and Geoff Boycott were masters in handling the
pressures of opening, and adept at building long
bowlers will try to unnerve the openers through
physical intimidation with a battery of
short-pitched deliveries. Openers must have the
courage, resilience, and self-belief to play this
type of bowling. They ought to stay composed and
try to rotate the strike. This will reduce the
bowlers' effectiveness in applying constant
The openers must aim to play through the entire
first session without losing a wicket. This calls
for a high level of concentration and the dealing
of each delivery on merit. Openers very often
receive unplayable deliveries. It is essential that
they learn to forget about them and focus on the
The openers have to perform four different roles
depending upon the situation.
- To see through the new ball
- To attack the bowlers when they are worn out
- To support the attacking middle-order batsmen
- To steady the boat if an early wicket falls.
All these roles require different mindset and
Steve Waugh - one
of the all-time greats.
batsman is most likely to be dismissed at the very
beginning of his innings, when he is new to the
crease and hasn't got his eye in. One mistake and
he could be cooling his heels in the pavilion. No
matter how benign the wicket may be, or mediocre
the opposition maybe, there will be some amount of
nervousness in the batsman, due to the apprehension
of getting out first ball. Here, it is important
for the batsman to control his emotions. It is
natural and important to feel the adrenalin
flowing, but striking a balance is important, which
means that although he may be edgy, he should be
able to control his movements and thoughts. Routine
again plays an important role here. Usually all
batsmen, particularly openers, have a routine that
they follow unconsciously.
Hayden, the most prolific opener of the modern era,
is one who comes to mind immediately. He not only
'meditates' on the pitch the day before the match,
but also follows a ritual during the match, which
involves squatting on the pitch after taking guard.
Different openers have different methods. Nobody
was supposed to talk to Sunil Gavaskar ten minutes
before he went in to bat.
The other 'positions' in the batting order will be
dealt with in the subsequent article.