Cricket Psychology – Concentration

By Paul M Maher

How do you feel if you have just dropped an important catch? Internally you get angry with yourself, down because of the negative experience and externally you see the look of disappointment on your team mates’ faces, their body language and maybe hear words of disgruntlement from the spectators.

You feel the odd man out. You have to let it go, then change your mood to perform at your best and not make another mistake. Have you read elsewhere what to do to get yourself into a more upbeat mood?

There is a direct relationship between your breadth of focus and your level of arousal. When arousal is low, you are more concerned with the crowd, bad light, weather conditions, your opponents and other factors going on around you. While with appropriate arousal, you can focus on the moment and ignore all other irrelevant stimuli.

Concentration is one of the easiest skills to master, but one of the most difficult to maintain. The concentration requirements of one day, 20/20 and especially over several days, vary. Be aware of your concentration skills. Along with the ever-changing variables of an ever changing game you must know when you have to adopt a less intense soft focus or a more intense focus.

The goal is able to control attention and match the demands of the game. As a batsman standing at the crease, you need to be able to switch your concentration from a broad focus, observing the field positions and boundaries so you know where to hit and place the ball, to a narrow focus, on the seam of the ball and bowlers hand while maintaining a positive internal focus and avoid thinking about any other distractions.

As a bowler, you also need a good external focus using your peripheral vision to know all your fielders are in their correct positions for the type of ball you are going to deliver, then when running up to bowl, you have to change to a more narrow focus on the line and length of your delivery and to be aware of the batsman and the wicket he is guarding.

Internal focusing deals on any mood, sensations, feelings or thoughts. For example, thoughts could be set on being confident or not, any selectors watching, wondering what your captain thinks about your efforts, facing the first delivery after lunch and still thinking about your lunch, or a message you received on your mobile phone during lunch.

External focusing deals with distractions from people, the location, weather, the pitch being too wet or too dry, blocking out sledging which may cause emotional distraction, bowling the last few over’s of the day, all the events outside of you.

Concentration varies in duration as it may fluctuate in intensity. Whether you have a narrow or broad span of concentration, whether it is internal or external, the extent of your concentration can harmonize your physical, emotional and mental requirements and successfully focus on the task at hand so you will be distanced from distractions and worries about things beyond your control.

You need to be aware of all the situation changes relating to the run of the match, allowing the most recent happenings to be in focus at the exclusion of anything else. Being ‘on the ball’ you are able to act instantly to your most effectiveness.

Make a personal commitment to improve your concentration. Develop a desire to improve your concentration. Train yourself to shift your focus and practice when to have a hard or softer focus which will develop further your concentration skill. Use pre-game preparation to mentally prepare for the game besides warming up the physical skills. This is taking sports psychologyto its absolute limit.

Keep your awareness of tactics and on what you need to do to be focused and ready in any given situation at any moment. Stay relaxed, calm and in your best state to go out to the middle to bat or bowl or when fielding.

What else can you do? Take into consideration the venue, mode of travel and time it takes to get there. You want to arrive early so as not to be rushed and prepare for the game ahead.

Use concentration exercises by holding the image of the seam of the ball for a few minutes, then looking away.

Breathing exercises and relaxation exercises are covered in this book elsewhere. Use music to increase your arousal or calm, relaxing sounds to focus and reduce tension.

Use personal triggers and anchors. Think about past rewarding games, maybe against the present opposition and venue. Keep a mental list of previous best performances against them, what you did, how you felt, any great catches, wickets taken. See, hear and feel it all again.

If you’re physically prepared, you must also be prepared mentally and emotionally. Set your frame of mind for the game. ”I think I’ll bat well today as I’m relax, confident, feeling strong” or other good thoughts that can keep you cheerful and make you smile.

Change any mood state and bin a less desirable state such as lethargy, tenseness, tiredness which may inhibit you and think about alertness, calmness and motivation.

Your ability to monitor and evaluate your concentration level will help you have a faster more effective shift of focus and also avoid any potential destructive performance and will enable optimum performance to occur. That’s concentration; that’s cricket psychology!