Thursday, October 02, 2008

On coaches, laptops and video footages.

When seasoned campaigners such as Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman struggled against the wily bowling of Mendis, Sehwag and Dhoni could play him with relative ease. The first three, perhaps, suffered from paralysis-by-analysis (watching all those video footages on the coach’s laptop), while the last two simply relied on their instincts.

A few years back, commenting on the decline of West Indian cricket, Greg Chappell wondered ‘if the Caribbean cricketers were in danger of having their natural abilities stifled by an unbalanced focus on biomechanics .He felt West Indians were attempting to emulate the highly technical and often confusing programmes originating from Australia and England instead of developing a curriculum and youth coaching method suited to the natural attitudes and instincts of the West Indian.’ (source).

Jonah Lehrer makes a similar point, in the context of football and in response to a decision of N.F.L to screen draftees for skills in logic and maths, the underlying assumption being that quarterbacks who were better at algebra will make better (and faster) decisions on where to throw the ball.

Unfortunately, this assumption's all is wrong. If quarterbacks were forced to consciously contemplate their passing decisions - if they treated the game like a question on the Wonderlic-- they'd get sacked every time, a classic case of paralysis-by-analysis. The fact is, the velocity of the game makes thought impossible. What recent research in neuroscience suggests is that quarterbacks choose where to throw the ball by relying on their unconscious brain. Just as a baseball player will decide to swing at a pitch for reasons he can't explain (he' is acting on subliminal cues from the hand of the pitcher), an experienced quarterback picks up defensive details he's not even aware of. Although he doesn't consciously perceive the lurking cornerback, or the blitzing linebacker, the quarterback's unconscious is still able to monitor the movement of these players. And then, when he glances at his receivers, his brain automatically converts these details into a set of fast emotional signals, so that a receiver in tight coverage gets associated with a twinge of fear, while an open man triggers a burst of positive feeling. It's these inarticulate emotions, and not some elaborate set of calculations, that tell the best quarterbacks when to let the ball fly. The pocket, it turns out, is too dangerous a place to think.

Similarly, the cricket pitch is a wrong place to think. Just go there, trust your instinct and heuristics and whack the ball. That approach has a better chance of succeeding than when you try to slice the bowler’s action into 64 different elements and then aggregate them together again.

Sack all those coaches. And, dump all those laptops.


Hawkeye said...
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Hawkeye said...

While I seem to have the same views as yours - here is thought;

Mostly it is about getting the correct balance. In cricket (lets assume for our hypothesis that) the mix is 10% of a players game is influenced via such technology-based planning. 90% of it is just playing by instinct. Lets assume (for convenience)this proportion to be optimal.

Making technology influence 50% of the mix is an overkill and relying purely on instinct is sort of an over-optimistic approach. Rarely do players or media highlight the value of technology for its part in getting a wicket or stifling runs. so its effect tends to be underrated.