Cricket Psychology Tips: Make Bowling Simple by Avoiding these 3 Common Mental Game Errors
Do you get in your own way before deliveries?
Bowlers of all levels can leak runs due to poor mental decisions in some cases costing their team the match.
I’d argue that often they don’t know how to systematically approach each delivery so that they have more control over their thoughts and emotions, and in turn their confidence levels. This article is set up to help you if this is an issue for you, where I share 3 common mental game mistakes that I’ve noted from supporting many cricketers.
1. Don’t analyze your technique when you’re in a match
Any thoughts about your bowling action, during a match is likely to be counter-productive to you bowling with rhythm and taking wickets, whether this is between deliveries or in your run up. Trusting what you have is far more important than trying to correct something or forcing a movement while bowling.
Trying to consciously control your body during any action makes the task a lot more difficult. Think about if you drove your car while consciously thinking about what your body is doing – “put my hand on the gear stick, now press the accelerator…” – you’d likely end up in a ditch or crashing into another car.
When you’re next bowling, simply look to trust your ability. Thinking about your bowling action while running in creates tension which interferes with your rhythm and timing. It’s fine to think about it in the nets when you’re practicing a new movement, but in a match, it’s dangerous. To play your best, I’d encourage you to play with a quiet mind.
Thoughts do usually creep in during a match when a few wayward deliveries are whacked to the boundary, this is normal, however a lot of bowlers then look to analyse their action and attempt to correct the problem. The result then is a lot of deliveries which fail to hit the lines and lengths that they are looking to hit due to tension.
Tension increases with the more control that you try to impart over your bowling action. So try to follow this advice, “Give up control of your body to gain control of your body”. Instead of being focused on your body’s movements, seek to be connected with your objective – to deliver the ball to a specific target with a pre-determined pace or shape, and then trust your body to do what you’ve practiced.
Some of the best thoughts to be able to trust your action, when you’re about to throw the ball are “one-two”. This is a very simply approach – “one” for when you take your arm back, “two” for when you release and follow-through. This should help eliminate a lot of noise in your head!
2. Don’t place too much attention to the scoreboard unless you really have to
Unless you’re in a situation where you need to know exactly what the score is for strategy, like during the closing stages of a match, when a specific number of runs are needed off a small number of balls, it’s often best to try and forget about the scoreboard. Some of the best deliveries in the history of the games have occurred when the bowler didn’t know what the score was. You’ll find that when you play your best, it’s like you don’t care about the team’s overall performance. You don’t get into “judgement” mode. You just enjoy playing cricket, the challenge ahead of you and bowling some great deliveries. This is a helpful mentality for all matches. The score is something that is external and out of your control.
Tying your performance to the score can create a roller-coaster of emotions. If the score is your goal from the match. How are you going to feel when you get smashed out of the park on your first delivery? Will it dent your ego and ruin your match? If you can shift your goal for each match from the scoreboard to executing a good process and simply enjoying the game and the challenge no matter what, you will perform much better. Shifting your focus from outcome to process is a great way to bowl at your best.
3. Don’t beat yourself up, be your own inner coach.
How do you talk to yourself when you bowl? Are you encouraging or critical of yourself? Do you put yourself down when things aren’t going well?
How you talk to yourself on the cricket field can make a big difference in how you perform. Great coaches are often great coaches because they communicate effectively to their players. They know what to say, when to say it and how to say it.
Would a great coach approach you just before you’re about to send an important delivery down and shout at you saying “You’ve been #?/# all match you’ll get smashed for six” Or “You’ve no chance of landing it where you want to because you’re rubbish!” No chance, the coach would be fired because the players wouldn’t tolerate it. Saying such things, doesn’t help a bowler, it would lower their confidence and make them more tense before the next delivery.
Instead the coach would offer some encouraging words to help the player forget about previous spells if they’d been struggling and move on. So consider how you can create your own “inner coach”, so that you boost your confidence and bounce back quickly from poor deliveries. To do this, start to develop a list of phrases or cue words that you can say before and after deliveries.
Unless you’re a professional playing cricket for your livelihood, to support your family and put a roof over your head, it really shouldn’t make you get so down on yourself. After all cricket is a great game that allows you to practice challenges that present themselves in real life. You face adversity and have to bounceback quickly. You make errors and have to find ways to refocus. You may get caught thinking about the past or the future and workout ways to stay present. You can go through periods where you’re out of form and try to remain positive, as well as a whole lot more. Consider this the next time a batsman sends one of your deliveries over the boundary or the ball slips out the side of your hand.
If some of these mental game challenges are a struggle for you or your team and you’d like to learn more about how we could help you why not get in touch. We are passionate about helping cricketers get maximum enjoyment from their cricket and offer FREE resilience and confident cricketer programs as well bespoke programs to meet your needs.
You can also join our online community – THE SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY HUB – for regular Sports Psychology tips, podcasts, motivation and support.
Online Cricket Psychologist who supports Bowlers and Batsmen around the world from Barbados to London, Dubai to Durban, Perth to Wellington, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.
Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence, Host of Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast and Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub. With over a decades’ experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, faster.
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