Opinion: Mindfulness and Cricket, a Perfect Marriage

Fielder throws cricket ball in

Justin Langer's time as coach of Australia has been trying but at least one of his approaches to coaching deserves praise, writes Jonhenry Wilson. 

Langer has encouraged players in his charge to practice mindfulness - the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, a technique seemingly tailor made for cricket.

Batsmen in particular could benefit from a calm and focused mind. Every innings is a series of moments, and in each of them the batsman must make a decision. The greater a batsman's awareness of the present, the greater chance they have to execute the skills they work so hard on in training.

Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist practice but has been integrated into mainstream western psychology since the 1970s.

In J. David Creswell's review of Mindfulness Intervention programmes, he describes the rapid rise in the use of the technique: "Interest in mindfulness interventions has increased exponentially over the past three decades.

"Much of this interest has been fueled by scientific reports and corresponding media coverage describing the potential benefits of mindfulness interventions for a broad array of outcomes, ranging from mental and physical health outcomes (Ludwig & Kabat-Zinn 2008) to cognitive, effective, and interpersonal outcomes (Brown et al. 2015). Mindfulness interventions are also increasingly being integrated into institutional settings—in clinical treatment (Dimidjian & Segal 2015), the workplace (Good et al. 2016), schools (Sibinga et al. 2016), the military (Johnson et al. 2014), and prisons (Samuelson et al. 2007), to name only a few.

"This proliferation of interest in mindfulness interventions has been met by the scientific community with a wide range of reactions, from skepticism to fanaticism."

Cricket is little more than a highly specialized field of work. Professional cricketers face unique pressures and stresses, though. Some might suggest that cricket is 'just a game' but for those directly involved it is how they put food on the table. Mindfulness is a great way to block out the thousands of people actively calling for you to lose your job while simultaneously asking you to enjoy yourself.

Creswell of Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania with expertise in Clinical Psychology, Social Psychology and Health Psychology notes how hard it can be for most people to train their focus on the present moment.

He writes: "Readers not familiar with mindfulness meditation practices or mindfulness interventions might try a quick exercise: close your eyes for about a minute and maintain an open awareness of the sensations of breathing at your nostrils. There is no need to do anything special, just continuously observe the sensations of breathing in and breathing out at the nostrils with curiosity and interest.

"Even doing a one-minute mindfulness exercise like this can reveal that our minds are quick to race off to other places."

Studies do not suggest that a person can attain superhuman skills from the use of mindfulness but it has been demonstrated as being beneficial.

Before his fall from grace during the sandpaper ball-tampering incident, Cameron Bancroft was among the players to apply mindfulness to his game. The young man has reportedly continued the practice as he copes with the fallout from the events at Newlands earlier this year.

Cricket is not the only sport to apply mindfulness techniques but it could be the game that derives the most benefit because of the need to constantly refocus attention whether fielding, bowling or batting.

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Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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