When we practice - especially in winter - we often work on the big dogs of cricket: techniques and tactics.
Quite right too.
Except, without some underpinning skills, all the tactical nous and technical perfection in the world is useless.
We don’t work on them as much because they are hard to see and tough to analyse. We would rather do something tangible; hit more balls in nets or take more catches on practice night.
Cricket skills are important, but the underpinning skills that need just as much development and maintenance as middling a cover drive.
What are they?
Understanding ourselves is a skill we all think we have. Really, it’s an ongoing effort.
When you are aware, you are conscious of how you are behaving in the moment and always doing the best you can with the skills you have.
This is simple, but not easy. It takes time. There is plenty of failure. But when you spend more time being aware of what you do and why you do it, you perform better: Technically, tactically, mentally and physically.
Cricket is loaded with dozens of decisions in hundreds of moments. Most are instinctive like hitting the ball or diving for a catch. Many are more thoughtful like deciding which ball to bowl, changing the field or deciding on your tempo of batting based on runs required.
Either way, before you do something (technical skill) you need to make the decision to do it. So, you better get good at decision-making if you want to be technically sound.
For example, before you play that cover drive you have to both judge the line and length of the ball, and decide which shot to play. That’s two thirds of batting done in decision-making before you have even moved.
Creativity is about more than playing a reverse sweep. Creativity means being to solve a problem with a novel approach, often decided in the moment.
So, you may decide to reverse sweep the off spinner because they left a gap at backward point. That’s creative because hardly anyone risks it.
It also might be; working on throwing while off balance, bowling a bouncer on a dead pitch, or putting fielders in unusual positions because you have worked out how to get a certain style batsman out. All these things are creative because they look at a problem in a different way.
Resilience is your ability to understand and manage yourself. If you understand how you respond to different stressful situations, you are able to improve your chances of performing.
If you need four to win facing the last ball, you could feel that as anxiety, or excitement. If you get out for a low score in a big run chase, you could feel that as guilt, anger or frustration. There are many more examples, but you get the idea.
Your feelings are not your resilience. You can’t control how you feel. You can control what you do regardless of those feelings though. If you work on your resilience, you become aware of these feelings in the moment, realise you don’t have to cave in, and take the most helpful action in response.
Handily, these five elements spell out “CARDS”. Easy to remember and refer back to when you are in the cold nets wondering why you just played and missed at three in a row.
How will your CARDS look as you start to think about nets after Christmas?