How much of a cognitive process is a batsman’s temperament?

posted on 2018-10-24 10:45:26
posted by Sritama Panda

A batsman stands out as a lonely warrior. Beads of nervousness in the form of perspiration get soaked in a piece of cloth that’s seated under the helmet of the batsman.

Image credit: Indian Express

In this contemporary world, claims and fights for equality are widespread. There are figurative and literal placards everywhere.  

There are regular protests that fight for the equality between men and women. What placards do you see? Literal.

More often than not the balance between bat and ball is put under question. Again, what placards? Figurative.

The balance between sustainable and non-sustainable resources? Well, the answer to everything that’s related to environmental studies is Global Warming.

Jokes Apart.

Test Cricket has always been assumed to be “Gentleman’s game” since ages. Similarly, Cricket as a whole has been referred to as a “batsman’s game”. Maybe the same person or the same group of people coined both the terms. Either that or the same group just sat together and assumed. But then a pitch favoring a batsman is called a “good pitch” whereas the ones favoring the bowlers are called a “bad wicket”. Perhaps, the latter argument is relatively true.

The IPL has been accused to have marred ‘Gentleman’ aspect of the game. Six runs an over in limited overs Cricket stopped being a big thing around the same time IPL came into being. T20 cricket has disturbed the balance between the bat and ball, so they say.

Since the day when WG Grace said: “they came to see me bat” to this day, Cricket has come a full circle. Perhaps. But do we see the same confidence as WG Grace anymore? I think not. The big bats, the bigger strike rates, the bigger totals don’t speak of confidence.

For the rest of the players play their regular game, a batsman stands out there as a lonely warrior. Beads of nervousness in the form of perspiration get soaked in a piece of cloth that’s seated under the helmet of the batsman.

But how do we figure that out about Alastair Cook, a man who hardly ever sweats? Or a certain James Faulkner who batted for more than six overs, in a last-wicket stand with Clint McKay, to successfully chase down a target of 302 from a point when Australia was on 244/9.

His expression remained an unwavering calm. “I might look like I am calm, but deep down I am pretty nervous,” is what he had said in the post-match presentation. The tension wasn’t just about his own batting but also for his partner, a non-batsman.

What if he got dismissed while hitting one of those sixes from the night? The match would’ve ended right there. “In cricket, you can get that piece of bad luck, and that hard work comes to nothing,” says Steve Bull, who was the England men’s team psychologist between 1997 and 2014, in an exclusive interview with Betway

“A slight error of technique and you are out,” says Bull. “One mistake. The margin is so ridiculously small, and the consequences of a mistake are so huge,” Bull said.

The story isn’t the same for the bowlers. They had one wicket to take, the batsman had several hurdles to cross. The biggest and the trickiest being his own psychology. One mistake and the applause from the crowd would’ve converted to a dead silence in the dressing as he walked back to the pavilion. As Mike Brearley puts it as the silence "in respect for the dead."

A batsman’s game?

West Indies 245 for 6 (Lewis 100, Charles 79) beat India 244 for 4 (Rahul 110*, Rohit 62, Bravo 2-37) by 1 run

What does the above scorecard, for a T20I game, suggest? Yes. A T20I match, twenty overs a side. 489 runs were scored in that match, the highest aggregate in T20 Internationals till date. The match witnessed two centurions, one from each side.

Two runs were required off the last delivery for India to win. MS Dhoni was on strike, 43 off 24 at that point. A slower from Dwayne Bravo tricked Dhoni into pushing the ball towards offside for a couple of runs, instead it was caught by the third man.

One mistake by the batsman. Hundreds of runs scored by both teams. And a bowler wins the match on the last delivery.

A batsman’s job is the riskiest job of all. One mistake and the people lose faith in you. A few consecutive mistakes and the batsman loses faith in himself. The damage then caused is on a psychological level.

“The knock-on effect is that after two or three low scores, the rest of the mechanisms kick in and the confidence starts to go. It can take you into the abyss.”

In these circumstances, Bull encourages several of his clients just to relax – “it’s a cliché, but sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break and switch off” – by going out for a drink or a day out.

Who better than a batsman who has faced the demons himself to validate Bull’s assertions? Shivnarine Chanderpaul, once the wall of West Indies Cricket, believes that Steve Bull’s upholding about the matter is “perfectly spot on. “These days bowlers study you more – it’s not that easy. Bowlers can tell when you’re struggling,” says Chanderpaul.

“In difficult conditions, you might be able to leave a few, but one or two you might nick off. It depends how long you’re able to stay out there if you can get lucky and miss those balls,” he adds.

Regarding the luck factor, Bull explains that a batsman can do “everything absolutely right” and still end up back in the hutch. He says that as opposed to Cricket in other walks of life “if you take control if you’re confident, resilient and conscientious, it will take you far”, whereas “In cricket, you can get that piece of bad luck, and that hard work comes to nothing.”

Chanderpaul, though, speaks of how resilience can be the key to longevity. The fifth most capped Test cricketer of all time had to face a lot of criticism for his unusual and quirky stance. All he feels is a batsman should always “go out and play a bit harder” as he’d do so when his “place wasn’t on the line”.  “I would just fight as hard as I could, try and bat as much as I could. You don’t want to be in that situation when you’re being put under pressure,” he says.

A batsman’s temperament is completely cognition centric. In the words of Bull, “Better players are resilient and tough players.” According to him, a “good psychology” should sound like ‘I’m taking control of this. I’m going to feel confident. I’m feeling good in the nets, hitting the ball well, moving my feet.’

“If you are more of a worrier, very negative and very analytical, it can take you deeper into trouble,” he adds.

As much as Chanderpaul stood stable like a wall, playing in the nets and giving it all, he has also had times when he didn’t feel good about his batting. Instead of taking a break, he’d play till he felt better. His approach can be synchronized with Bull’s assertions to understand the relation between a batsman’s psychology and a psychologist’s viewpoint.

To wrap it up, both believe that easing off a bit and not stressing is the key. “Don’t let that voice(the voice of stress) in your head take over,” says Bull.

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