Good batsmen have better powers of concentrations and stay focused right through their stay at the crease. They should not let themselves be distracted even during the breaks. This is what we’ve been told.
Greg Chappell, in his column in The Hindu, explains how that piece of wisdom did not work for him and how he needed to change his approach.
My own experience was that, to bat for long periods, I had to break my innings down and train myself to play one ball at a time. Once I acquired this skill, I found batting for long periods became easier.Prior to this, I had tried to concentrate non-stop by forcing myself to focus fiercely from the time I walked in until I got out. During this period, I tried to follow the bowler and the ball for the whole over so that I didn’t lose concentration.What I found during this phase, was that I tired very quickly and actually began to make mistakes after a relatively short period of time. If I did succeed using this method, I was usually so tired that I couldn’t relax easily afterwards and I was generally ‘flat’ for a few days.On reflection, it dawned on me that this method was bound to fail and I had to find an alternative method. The alternative I chose was to train myself to concentrate for one ball at a time.Concentration is the ability to focus on what is important at that moment.From that point, my practice sessions became a contest with myself to see how well I could manage the conflicting messages in my head. Training was no longer an exercise in polishing my technique, but a mental exercise in engaging with the bowler at the appropriate time.What I learnt to do was to switch-on to the bowler once he reached his bowling mark. The fiercest concentration was saved for the time that the bowler reached his delivery stride until that particular play was finished.In between balls, I had a quick look into the crowd to give my mind a break before returning my attention to the field of play. I re-engaged with the bowler again once he got back to his mark.The look into the crowd was an important part of my concentration routine. If I was playing at home, I would pick out someone whom I knew to look for. I astounded my family and friends when, at the end of the day, I could tell them what time they had arrived at the ground, who they had spoken to and what time they had a drink or something to eat.Once I perfected this routine, I was never fatigued during play nor was I exhausted at the end of a long innings. Effectively, I had only concentrated at full intensity for a matter of minutes, even if I batted all day.One of the challenges for me during net sessions with multiple bowlers was not to face up to the next ball until I was switched-on to the next bowler. It took me a while to get my routine down pat, but once I got into the flow of it, I found it easier to get into the ‘zone’.Interestingly, I actually faced fewer balls in my allocated practice time once I started doing this, but actually felt that I was getting more out of my net sessions. Once I perfected my mental routine, I found it exciting to see how long I could bat before I made a mental mistake.
The sentence, “Concentration is the ability to focus on what is important at that moment” makes a lot of sense. Far easier to break up a task into multiple, manageable chunks and tackle it one at a time.