India Times – Sep 28, 2007 – Avijit Ghosh – NEW DELHI, September 28: Six sixes in an over is the ultimate thrill of batsmanship. And if BCCIs recent Rs 1 crore announcement is any indication, it is also the most rewarding. For the spectators too, no sight is more entertaining than the red cherry flying beyond the rope with such regularity.
But for the hapless bowler that one over can be a lifelong curse. Malcolm Nash may have been a decent county bowler, but he is remembered only for the six over-boundaries that Garfield Sobers slammed against him in 1968. Or, Barodas left-arm spinner Tilak Raj, who was taunted and teased for many months after being at the receiving end of Ravi Shast aggression in 1985.
In this backdrop, one wonders about the kind of psychological damage endured by 21-year-old England paceman Stuart Broad after Yuvraj Singh smashed him for six consecutive sixes during the recent Twenty20 World Cup.
London-based sports psychologist Victor Thompson explains. “The main risk is that the bowler will interpret the sixes as evidence that he has failed as a bowler,” he says. According to the sports psychologist, a bowler should focus on the challenge and not the threat of the situation to prevent from crumbling psychologically.
“He should analyse his delivery and look for ways to test and beat the batsman. He must keep his body language confident and positive: upright, purposeful, chest high. He should also recall similar situations before where he has had success and shown grit against a challenging batsman. Other techniques can also help but these can give most bowlers a boost,” Thompson says in an email interview.
Florida-based performance psychologist John F Murray compares the event to a pitcher getting hammered in baseball. “The effect depends entirely on a player’s experience, self-confidence, maturity and resilience. If a player is high in these factors then catastrophic failure has little effect and the player usually recovers well and may even return with increased confidence and focus,” he says.
However, if player lacks resilience then he is likely to interpret the event traumatically and this can lead to mood difficulty, greater anxiety and even poorer performance in the future. “Many of my referrals originate following such negative events. The key in helping those who experience an adverse reaction to failure is to know precisely how that athlete thinks, feel and behaves. And then to design a treatment programme that is most suited to his or her needs,” Murray says.
For the record, Nash wasnt destroyed by Sober sixes. It helped that he was a left-arm medium pacer who was bowling slow left-arm orthodox spin that day. Few know it wasnt the only time that the Glamorgan bowler was mauled. Frank Hayes of Lancashire hit him for five sixes and a four in one over. It is even less known that he himself once hit four consecutive sixes against Dennis Breakwell of Somerset. His county career ended only in 1983. Nash finished with 993 first-class wickets. He now teaches cricket in California.
Even Tilak Raj has made peace with his plight. “In the end, you have to accept it. It is the beauty of the game,” he said recently in a TV interview. Hopefully, Netherlands Dan van Bunge who was clobbered in similar fashion by South Africas Herschelle Gibbs during the one-day World Cup earlier this year has done the same.
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.