Gary Kirsten's coaching module
What percentage do you think mental skills as opposed to technical skills play in your cricketing success?
Depending on your level, answers generally vary. Take a minute to write down your answer in your journal.
Over the past five years I have asked over 400 players from school to international level, what percentage of their
practice time they spend on mental as apposed to the technical
side of their game. The answer varies from 5% mental to 40% mental but with a much heavier emphasis on the lower end.
Given all this input, here is what I believe - success is 50 - 50 split between mental and technical but time spent
at practise should be focussed 100% on mental and technical skills - all the time! In other words, you cannot
train one without the other.
The key question is this: What mental skills are you actually training when you
think you are training only your technique and not your mind?
Put differently, I think that about 70-90% of
our practice time is spent training bad mental habits!
For example, in a game a batsman will be required to
have a 'switch-up' and 'switch-down' focus. Switch-up is when the bowler is in his run up and the ball
is about to enter play, and switch-down time is when the ball becomes dead and is on its way back into the bowlers hands.
Switch-down time is typically used to
i) reflect on the last ball or the last over or last time I was in this situation, and based on this reflection from the past to
ii) plan for the next ball, next over and next period of play -basically to plan for the future.
Switch-up time is classically
used to do one thing and one thing only - to see the ball and allow the body to naturally/ automatically respond to it - with no i
nterference from the mind at all! Or differently put, to focus on what is happening now - the present.
This is typically
what happens when a batsman is 'in the zone' or fully focused in a game - but to what extent is this focus being conditioned
in the nets? I suggest most players spend most of their time practicing in what I call 'bowling machine mode'. Neither batsman
nor bowler really find full switch-up mode, nor focused switch-down mode. It's more a combination of 'sort-of-switch- up'
and 'talk-to-others- between-balls' as a type of switch-down
My suggestion is this: make a note of what you want to be thinking during switch-down and during switch-up time i
n a game. And then replicate that as accurately as possible during a practice. Watch some of the international players practice -
you will not see them talking unnecessarily to others at practice - in fact players like Jacques Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar and
Rahul Dravid are as focused and 'in the zone' at practice and during throw-downs as they are facing the worlds best
fast bowlers, or bowling to the best batsmen.
Practice as you play. You have all heard the saying