Opinion: 'Talent' is a four-letter word

Fielder throws cricket ball in

There is something about being called 'talented' that must constantly rankle sportspeople who achieve remarkable feats in their chosen field - and cricket is no exception. 


Whether it is Donald Bradman, Brian Lara, Virat Kohli or AB de Villiers, the word 'talented' is applied to explain why these men have managed to lift themselves above the crowd. The word suggests, though, that their achievements are down to some innate ability - and not their own hard work.

Bradman trained constantly as a young man, famously whacking golf balls off a water tank with a single stump. Kohli is an obsessive trainer, driven to succeed - and de Villiers perfected his outrageous shot selection and stroke play with hours of practice.

But our society needs its heroes - and they need to somehow be imbued with mystical powers. We can't go around saying that this cricket lark is all down to hard work, because then we should all be able to do it.

In 2016, Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University, and Robert Pool went as far as unequivocally declaring that there is no such thing as talent in their book, 'Peak – Secrets from the New Science of Expertise'.

In an interview with Entrepreneur magazine, Ericsson said: "What we are saying here is that we can explain what people observe and call 'talent' and account for it as the result of engaging in training activity.

"We don't know of any evidence, when you exclude body size and height, that there are really prerequisites that would make some less likely to succeed than other individuals who are willing to engage in the appropriate training."

Through extensive research, they discovered that, in most situations, focused training is superior to innate ability in terms of producing results.

Well that is deflating, isn't it? Cricket is a game that does not just rely on trained skills because of the importance of vision and physical strength, but that great intangible of 'talent' could just be a comforting lie we tell ourselves.

We don't really see everything that goes into producing a Test century, but nobody would suggest that any batsman walks out onto the park having done zero work in preparation. To overstate the role of talent is to discount all the work put in by the men and women who play sport at the highest level.

We should not despair, though. Greatness is within our grasp - and the greatest of our innate gifts as human beings is our ability to learn and to get better. 

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Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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