BETWEEN THE EARS
- By VVS Laxman
Cricket may be an outdoor sport involving
individuals and apparatus made of willow and
leather, but it is essentially a game that is
played 'between the ears'. At the higher levels,
all the players are more or less equally talented,
and it is here that 'mental' strength counts. Those
who possess it, do justice to their ability, and
those who lag behind, suffer.
The author acknowledges
the cheers after completing his second successive
hundred at the Sydney Cricket Ground, January 2004
Concentration, focus, clarity of thought, proper
preparation, enjoyment - These are areas that can
certainly be worked on and enhanced. I would
attribute whatever little success I have achieved
in cricket to my attempts to gain proficiency in
these critical aspects.
Concentration is vital for success in every sphere
of life, cricket included! I used to do lot of
breathing exercises like 'pranayama', wherein you
just concentrate on your breathing and try to shut
out thoughts from your mind. This is quite useful,
as it helps to not only increase the lung capacity
but also keep the focus solely on the breathing.
There are several exercises that can be done to
improve one's concentration. One of them is to sit
in a dark room with a candle in front, and
concentrating on the light, trying not to blink the
eyes. This will help a player improve his focus.
This can then be extended to the cricket field,
wherein the player focuses on the cricket ball and
does not see anything else.
A 'FRESH' MIND
After I pad up during a game, I prefer to listen to
music or read a book, or sometimes chat with my
colleagues. I guess these methods help to divert
your attention from the outside world and relax
your nerves. They ensure that you are mentally
'fresh' when you walk in to bat, and at the same
time, be aware of all that is happening in the
game, like the behaviour of the wicket, the quality
of bowling, etc. without entertaining any negative
It is easier to concentrate when you are well
prepared for the match, as once you are in the
middle, your sole priority should be to concentrate
on the ball coming at you, instead of thinking
about your backlift, feet movement, etc. You need
to keep your mind blank and let your instincts take
over. Too many thoughts will slow down your
judgement and reflexes.
The art of judgement
I try to sit down and think about all that the
opposition bowlers would have planned for me,
atleast two days before a match. The idea is to
anticipate what they have in store for me and think
of effective counterattack measures. While doing
so, one should take into account the nature of the
wicket and what strokes can be best played on that
surface. Once all this has been thought out, one
should practise accordingly. It's not a bad idea to
jot down the strong and weak points of the
opposition bowlers, so that you are well aware of
what you will be up against in the match. One
should try to simulate various match situations
during practice, so that one is prepared for any
eventuality in the actual game.
VISUALISATION On the eve of the match, I visualise what I will be
doing on the cricket field the next day. The 'visualisation'
process begins right from my walking out to bat,
taking guard and playing the opposition bowlers. In
short, you play your entire innings in the mind
before you play it in actual terms.
'FLOW' CONCENTRATION I feel that I concentrate best on days when I don't
feel the passage of time at all while batting.
There are days when you bat for a whole day, and
yet feel fresh, as if you have just begun your
innings. This generally happens when you are 'in
the zone', in a 'flow', thinking only about the
process and enjoying it without thinking about the
result. I experienced this when I scored 281
against the Aussies at Kolkata in the 2001 series,
and when I scored two triple hundreds in the Ranji
Trophy in 1999-00. I just did not feel exhausted
despite batting for long periods, simply because I
had learnt to 'enjoy the process'.
ENJOYMENT Enjoying the game is the most important ingredient
for success. When you enjoy any situation you find
yourself in, irrespective of whether it's tough or
easy, you will always stand a better chance of
succeeding. The ability to enjoy the game has a
direct relationship with one's thought processes
and your judgement and reflexes. The greater the
enjoyment, the better your judgement and reflexes
will be. Your thoughts will also be more positive.
- By VVS Laxman