One couldn’t help feeling for Kane Richardson in his first One Day International last weekend in Adelaide.
Playing on his home ground, he was taken out of the bowling attack by the umpires for running on the pitch in his follow through.
It might sound like a simple problem to overcome, but he will have to work hard to over-ride the technical and balance issues that created the problem in the first place. Any changes will take some time to hard-wire into his brain.
Having spent much of the past two months watching youth cricket I have had cause to reflect on how challenging it is to graduate from the youth level to men’s cricket.
Many of the lads playing in the Under 17 National Championships in Hobart last month and those at the Under 19 National Championships in Adelaide this month, have dreams of playing professional cricket and some, no doubt, will have dreams of playing for Australia.
Most of them have no idea of what they are letting themselves in for.
In this era of professional cricket, going from playing cricket on the weekend, with the odd training session in between, to living and breathing the game 24/7 can be a life-changer in more ways than one.
Playing a sport as a past-time is very different from playing it for a living. Not only does it place much more strain on the body as one gets fitter and stronger and works on one’s game; it can do one’s head in if one is not careful.
Having too much time to think about things and having to deal with a constant stream of information, much of which conflicts with what one believes, or has heard elsewhere, will test even the strongest personality.
If one is to survive, let alone prosper, one has to make good choices.
Aristotle said it best when he said, “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance determines your destiny.”
I would add to that a modicum of luck.
Many young cricketers think that, just because they are putting more time into it, their cricket must get better. Often, the reverse is the case.
The other misconception is that to improve, one must improve one’s technical proficiency. It is far more likely that if one can improve one’s thinking and decision-making, one will become more consistent without changing anything on the physical level.
In fact, that is where I would start with most young cricketers. If we as mentors and coaches can help them to make better choices and better decisions, and get better with their mental routines, I believe we can help make their transition less painful.
The other aspect of a full-time cricket career is that youngsters often forgo everything else in the belief that they need to focus exclusively on their cricket if they want to improve. This is something else that I would dispute.
I advise any youngster who is considering a cricket career to keep studying or developing them self away from the game. The better they become as people, I believe, the better they will become as cricketers.
Living in the narrow bubble that is the life of the professional athlete can make Jack a dull boy indeed. This, invariably, flows over to his sport.
Cricket, batting especially, is an exercise in managing failure. Don Bradman batted in Test cricket 80 times and ‘only’ made 29 centuries. If a century is a mark of success, Bradman ‘failed’ 51 times in his illustrious career. Considering that he is the most successful Test batsman by a factor of 100%, you will realise that the rest of us have had to learn how to deal with failure.
This is why the young professional cricketer has to become his own best coach. If he learns to understand his own game very well he is less likely to change things that actually work, just because he has failed a few times.
Trusting one’s method and training is the first thing that I would advise the new professional to learn. A lack of trust in oneself is fertile ground for doubt and despair to set in. This will invariably lead to a downward spiral that is hard to arrest.
To succeed at the adult level, it is important that players keep things as simple as possible. It is important that coaches reinforce this message. Clear plans for batting and bowling are essential to good execution.
If an athlete is thinking about technical issues during a game it is highly unlikely that he will be ready for the contest which will reduce his chance of success.
This will be an issue for Kane Richardson while he finds a solution to his problem. He will need to review his action and work with his coaches to iron out the glitch.
The good news is that, once he does work it out, he will be a better bowler than he was before the incident at Adelaide Oval.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia