Cricket is essentially a mental game, writes Makarand Waingankar

Cricket is essentially a mental game. No matter how good you look in the nets, it is the actual performances in crucial matches that carry you to the next level.

But when the pressure mounts due to high expectations and stakes involved, a cricketer is unable to handle it and often loses the plot.

The famous cases of Bill Edrich in the 50s and the recent cases of Andrew Symonds, Herschelle Gibbs and some of the Indian cricketers indicate that cricket is not as simple a game as it looks from beyond the boundary line.

Fierce competition among the peers and illogical selections at all the levels increase the frustration levels in cricketers. The ones who successfully negotiate the pressure and control the frustration tolerance index tend to perform more consistently. And those who can’t, end up groping in the dark.

Frequently, they turn to alcohol and drugs. Funnily, the cricketers who are tough physically are not necessarily mentally equipped to handle the pressure.

It’s the culture of social drinking in some of the countries that makes their boards treat irresponsible behaviour with a lot of sympathy. The boards quickly send them to the rehabilitation centre, and work on them.

Had Cricket Australia not acted swiftly to put Ricky Ponting back in cricket after the brawl in the bar, the world of cricket would have lost a very good cricketer.

In the Annual General Meeting of the BCCI held in September, the BCCI approved a sports medicine centre.

Though this was badly required for Indian cricket, the need of the hour is sports counselling. The ratio of frustration tolerance index in cricketers especially in teenagers and their families is increasing and cases of suicide are on a high.

Players who have undergone psychometric tests have changed their approach but with proper counselling the players would know where they go wrong and what could be the solutions to improve their performance.

It is imperative that the BCCI sets up zonal sports counselling centres with the help of professional sports psychologists.

Adverse impact

With the advent of IPL, the families and the players are focussed more on money than improving the skill level. This definitely will have an adverse impact on the players.

The modern generation of cricketers have a high sense of confidence but poor ability to handle failure.

Whether it is a team or individual sports, handling of pressure is very important. Not having been able to handle the failure and pressure, a former India team player has landed in the rehabilitation centre to kick alcoholism. Lack of job opportunities has added to their woes.

In the cases of Symonds and Gibbs their respective boards acted swiftly because of the talent these cricketers possess. In India we let the players fend for themselves.

Had Vinod Kambli been attended by counsellors, India would have had his services for a longer duration.

Arjuna Rantunga revealed recently that on his India tour of 1993, his team discussed more about Kambli than Tendulkar.

A player who averaged 54.20 with four hundreds out of which two are double hundreds in only 17 Tests, Kambli could have been a star performer.

He couldn’t handle failure. It is time the BCCI sets up counselling centres to ensure that talent is not lost.

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