Howzat? Mental routines define top batsmen

A James Cook University study has revealed the mental approach that gives great cricketers their edge – and it may well apply to other areas of expertise too.

Dr Jonathan Connor and a team of researchers interviewed eight elite batsmen who went on to become top coaches. The researchers asked the group for their insights into the secrets of high performance and then methodically coded their responses.

He said the findings have applications broader than cricket.

“Given the minimal error tolerance permitted in order to be successful, cricket batting is an ideal vehicle to better understand the complex nature of expertise.

“Obviously, top performers have to be technically very good, smart enough to analyse tactics and physically fit, but even more is required if they want to operate at the highest levels,” said Dr Connor.

The researchers found that a superb batting performance is based on a systematic, continuous cycle of updating how the batter and the game environment are interacting.

“It was continuous and cumulative reflection, not only thinking about the last ball, but the balls before that and the relevant factors that produced them and the likely ones to come,” said Dr Connor.

He said top players knew their own strengths and weaknesses and those of the bowler and fed this into their calculations to form game plans.

“They assessed conditions well and recognised which of their own abilities yielded the lowest risk for the most reward at that particular point in time. Then they would step up a gear and execute the plan before the contemplative process began again,” said Dr Connor.

He said beyond training just technical skills, coaches should also incorporate this mental aspect into a young cricketer’s game.

“Encouraging batters to develop their own pre-ball routines may be a useful behavioural strategy along with the cognitive strategies of reflecting, relaxing and refocusing reported by elite level batters,” said Dr Connor.

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