A couple of seasons back after one of our CSK lions had hit the winning runs in an absolute must win pressure situation, I asked him as to how he managed it when he was under so much pressure and his answer was “You just perform the way you would if you didn’t think a lot was on line!”
It is not easy to stay cool under pressure! Especially in cricket, when the hopes of a million frenzied fans and the esteem of your cricket crazy country/state rest on your tender shoulders to deliver the much needed last shot that’d make that thin line between victory and loss look and resound glaringly and blaringly like the Kargil war!
Pressure is created by how we look at it at a particular situation. One needs to understand that pressure starts inside us with our thoughts about the big game or meeting others’ expectations. It is not some external force that grips you by the neck and makes your veins stick out! It is WE! And how WE create the pressure by imagining a negative outcome. The solution lies within; as I have seen our team players do, training the mind to always perform naturally without thinking about what it needs to do next and what the possible consequences are of your actions. Being in the moment completely!
Our team captain has earned the nickname of Mr. Cool, considering he has the weight of the expectations. He believes that staying calm helps one focus and concentrate, shut off all the other voices of expectations, of endless advices to just find his groove to get through.
We tell all those players who feel pressure that what needs to be done, requires your 100%! Nothing less will do. You owe it to yourself! If we win, we know where we are! If we didn’t, we know what needs to be done!
True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.
I recently got into a new sport Rowing. It wasn’t easy! Showing up at the appointed hour in the required gear was easier than the actual sport. A few days into it I realised that I was still not doing something right. It finally came to me after few days of frustrated attempts at getting the techniques right and days of introspection. I wasn’t focusing!
Although I was committing myself to it, I realized there was something amiss. I thought focusing meant saying yes to what I had to focus on. It’s not that at all. It means saying “NO” to the hundred other things that want to run through your mind at the time. I was only mechanically doing my sport because I was thinking of my day’s line up of patients, treatment options, surgery plans, rehabilitation procedures, my appointment with the auditor, the bank documents I needed to submit and so on.
Looking back at this I couldn’t help but think of my colleagues, the players who have contributed many days of cricketing glory, Wondering if they are troubled now, and unable to focus due to distressing happenings around them. But unlike most of us, our elite cricketers in our team have been trained to focus and shut off every other thought and stimulus while they are on the field. But we are all human after all!! There will be an odd moment when they will be left to wonder about the going ons around them.
I only wish remind them of Winston Churchill’s famous quote – You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks!
So my message to my team is ALWAYS “Focus on your purpose! Focus on your reality, which is the game and only the game which is above everything else! You have come a long way and it’s up to you to take it a long way. "
I was watching the movie 'Bhag Milkha Bhag' the other day. The inspiring story of the immense determination of an athlete, his international acclaim and achievement was one thing, but what actually got me was how an actor slipped into the role of an athlete. He couldn't have possibly just ‘acted’ that role. He had to have actually lived it in order to deliver a larger than life performance that would befit the calibre of Milkha Singh! The discipline and the hard work of the actor stood out and that’s what was applauded!
It’s not easy being an accomplished sportsman! It takes years of hard, painful training, hours of practising, sacrificing the other things and perfecting the game one has undertaken to do justice to. Every sportsperson worth his salt in this country will definitely vouch for the sweat and grit he or she has put in. Sports is something that demands that much of you. Nothing is possible overnight.
When such is the case, the aspiring sportsperson owes it to himself to stay focussed in the game. Mental discipline is more challenging and it takes every ounce of one’s self-control to keep the focus steady. It is so easy to lose focus and get distracted.
When Dronacharya, the teacher of the Panadavas and Kauravas in Mahabharatha, asked his star pupil Arjuna, after he’d taken aim of the eye of the bird, as to what he saw, he said, ‘I see the eye of the bird!’ as against his other pupils who said, ‘I see the tree, the branches, the bird and the leaves!”
Distraction can undo in a moment what one has taken years to perfect. It can be very debilitating and one can lose faith in oneself as a result. Keeping this valid point in mind, my advice is to give the game the discipline it requires. Physically and mentally. Physically, exercising regularly, practising your game, keeping fit in order to be able to give it your all and maintaining your diet to do full justice to your game. And mentally, disciplining yourself to steer clear of the distractions and focussing on the game.
Your destination - your spot on the victory stand, the penultimate glory of touching the finishing line, hitting the winning six, that much needed last minute goal – everything is within your reach, provided you reach out for it with focus and single-mindedness it needs.
Practice with focus and the rewards will be waiting for you!
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