Today’s cricketers need guidance at every step and that is not available, writes Makarand Waingankar
Andrew Symonds and Shaun Tait may have different reasons to quit the game at the international level temporarily, but the one thing in common is that they have been unable to manage the pressure.
With the addition of match fees and prize money especially in T20 championships, the pressure has increased and this has affected the conduct of many cricketers.
To viewers, the game of cricket looks very simple. Having good technique is supposedly enough to guarantee good performance and that more time a cricketer spends in a gymnasium, he is more likely to be successful.
But how many cricketers work on mind-management?
Symonds and Tait are the products of the Australian system which deals with mind-management from a very young age. To an Aussie cricketer, pressure is part of life and over the years cricketers of different generations have shown ways to tackle pressure. In fact, that is the crucial difference between the Australian team and other international teams.
Long standing record
Australians have a long standing record of not succumbing to pressure and mind-games, but Symonds and Tait couldn’t manage pressure. When the Australian media built up hype about Tait’s pace against India, it was Tait who suffered more than the Indian batsmen, and he threatened to quit the game.
Symonds too has repeated the same threat. The problem is the Australian system is good at solving the problem by getting the player back, but it’s the mentoring that is missing.
The Indian system lacks solution to the mind problem and the mentoring.
In a system that churns out a huge number of participants, teenagers suffer from an expectation syndrome. The pressure of expectations pushes a player into a discomfort zone as the competition grows. Obviously performance tends to get affected. Now with IPL, huge sums have added to pressure, and players not used to such sums have lost focus. And when a player loses the focus, things go awry. This is where mentoring is very essential to guide the behaviour of a player.
There may have been less money in old system but coaches knew the work ethic of a player. And knowing the genuineness of the coach, the player would confide in him. With constant interaction both knew how to approach the game and sort out problems. This part of mentoring would take the load off the player’s mind.
There have been complaints about the unruly behaviour of players after winning the under-19 World Cup. That they have not been taught the values of a cricketing life and the way to handle fame and money at the NCA is certainly not their fault. They are not exposed to the process of development. Not many of today’s cricketers are educated. They need guidance at every step and that is not available. BCCI has to restructure the NCA which has some weird non-cricketing methods and these are proving to be detrimental to the growth of a player.
Mentoring is a process. Had Symonds or Tait been a part of such a process, they would not have allowed themselves to crack under pressure. Vinod Kambli is an example of a player unable to handle pressure.
Psychologists believe that anger-management and frustration-tolerance index are very vital to the growth of a cricketer. The fact is that cricketers tend to ignore these factors and indiscipline creeps in.
Disciplinary measures are not the solution to the problem. Addressing the issue through specialists is the only solution.