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  • Writer's pictureAustin Coutinho

Mental Preparation & The Pre-Match Advantage

Discover the essential role of mental preparation in cricket and how it provides a pre-match advantage over opponents. This article emphasizes the significance of physical training, mental focus, and strategic planning for young cricketers, using inspiring examples and actionable tips to excel in the game. Get ready to take charge and unleash your full potential on the field! The only mental preparation for a match that most players, including professionals, make is probably packing their kit bags the night before. That just isn’t enough. Young cricketers need to realise that they can gain an edge over others, even their teammates, by preparing themselves for matches much before the first ball is bowled. It isn’t unusual for professional cricketers to come ready to grab the initiative, whether batting, bowling or fielding, as soon as the umpire calls ‘play’. Ambitious young players, who have the experience of competitive cricket, are usually mentally prepared for the game, have their tactics and strategy in place and have taken care to be in top physical condition, besides working on their technical skills. There’s this story of Mia Hamm, the US soccer legend, who was once seen jogging by the coach, all by herself on a soggy football ground, as he drove down to his office close by for a meeting. Four hours later, when he left, Mia was still at it, in soiled clothes, shooting footballs into a goal – all alone. It is said that those who achieve greatness work hard when nobody is looking; their motivation drives them. Physical Preparation Starts Long Before the Match Off season is the best time to get fit. Strength training – overloading muscle fibre, stretching for flexibility – done slowly to avoid stretch reflexes, long-distance jogging – including road-running, speed, power training and agility exercises and of course, playing games like football, badminton and table-tennis should be a part of your training schedule. Also, a good training diet, which includes at least 60% of carbs, should help you cope with your workouts. (It will be helpful to consult a sports nutritionist in this regard, though). Do you know the difference between a good athlete and a great athlete? It’s staying power! Staying power implies a lack of self-pity and self-indulgence; a refusal to surrender. Consistent winners are those that summon the discipline to keep pressing physically and mentally; to stay with the battle. They come from behind to win and believe that the impossible is attainable. Pre-Match Checklist The pre-match warm up doesn’t start when you report at the ground. It starts when you are on your way to the match. The pre-season fitness training gives you the feeling of being in complete control of your body and your mind. Think of the past matches you played on that ground; relive your winning moments as you travel. Get the ‘happy chemicals’ in your brain flowing. As soon as you enter the changing room, spend a few moments exchanging pleasantries with your teammates and some opponents, if you know them. But get on with your pre-match preparations as soon as possible. Get into your training/match kit and start with a jog, probably of 15 minutes, stretch for a few minutes as you regain your breath and then get into a few sprints of 50 metres each. Remember, this is much before your team warm up, if at all, which your coach or trainer will conduct. After the team warm up is done: It’s now time to soak in the atmosphere, look around the ground, see the pitch, get familiarised with the surroundings. Don’t forget to get a track top or jumper on, if the weather is cold. Look down the ground from both ends. The more it feels at home, the more relaxed you will be in the match. Next, the specifics: If you are a specialist batter, take some throw downs or do some shadow practice. Bowlers can get their actions going by bowling in the nets or at batters. Then follow this up with some close catching and a few outfield catches, followed by ground fielding, just to get your eyes in. You are now ready for the battle. Depending on whether you are batting first or fielding, you can now, for a few moments, concentrate on what you want to happen during the inning. Ask yourself these questions:

1. What are my best weapons? How will I use them against my opponents? There was this opening batter, in Mumbai, who would stretch forward off the first ball of the match. Having watched him doing that in the past, I would bowl him a bouncer, first ball. I got him out early quite often and when he did survive, he was always on the backfoot and feeling uncomfortable. 2. What are my opponents’ weak points? How will I exploit those weak points? 3. What are the tactics/plans that the coach/captain have worked out for the match and how can I best contribute to the team effort?

When you start preparing mentally and physically for the match, much before it starts, with visualisation and planning, your brain becomes your partner in implementing ideas. That mental compass helps you establish a reference point that not only keeps you mentally relaxed but also gets you to perform to your maximum capacity – and beyond it – in the match. Please follow me on Facebook: Austin Coutinho’s Cartoon Page; on Twitter - @auscoot and on LinkedIn.

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1 Comment

William D'Souza
William D'Souza
Jul 31, 2023

Thanks for sharing this Austin. In many ways, what's explained above, I experienced in my training as Sr. Mgr, 👆👍👏

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