Developing your mental routine

In my last column ‘It’s time to stop thinking and enjoy yourself’, I mentioned it’s time to shift our focus towards our mental routines.

Some may be wondering what a mental routine is?

Here’s my attempt to explain it from a batsman’s perspective.

While we’ve already spoken about the time and effort put into honing our technical expertise over the years, you may have also found yourself pondering why one day you’re able to crush the first ball for four out of the middle of the bat and on another day, you nick that ball through to the keeper?

It’s the one million pound question and one that most likely involves a high degree of introspection as well and some gentle guidance from people with more experience and expertise than most of us.

The most common answer seems to be that some days we’re on and others we’re not.

The question then becomes: how do we give ourselves the best chance of having an ‘on’ day?

The answer is: by controlling what we can control and developing a mental and physical routine that is linked closely to the thoughts and feelings we experience when we are at our best and finding a way of repeating it ball after ball.

So, what do you do when you’re at your best? What preparation have you done in the week before hand? Hitting balls? Fitness? Mobility? Sleep? Nutrition? What are you thinking and dreaming about?

These are all things you should take into consideration when building your blueprint or weekly routine.

On the day of the game, what do you eat for breakfast/lunch/snacks? How much water/hydration is right for you? Do you read or watch tv or listen to music or podcasts? Do you have throw-downs during warm up? Or, do you prefer to bowl or take some catches?

You will eventually work out what helps you to get to that ideal level of arousal. It might be an evolving art or you might have a fixed process that works for you depending on your personal preference.

However, once you’re out in the middle experiencing all of the challenges that come with batting, what can you do to ensure that regardless of what you did the previous ball, regardless of what the match scenario is, regardless of what that bloke at point said about your recent run of form, that you are able to find your best performance ball after ball for as long as you can?

After all, what is it that you’re chasing? Are you seeking to react in a way that you’ve trained, regardless of the match scenario? To whack that half volley through the covers whether it’s your first ball or 100th. To play the pull shot only once you’ve become accustomed to the pace and bounce of the pitch or are you happy playing it from ball one?


Do your pads or gloves need adjusting? Do you like doing some gardening and clean the wicket of any bits of grass that have flown off the bowler’s boots or a loose patch of the wicket that needs the edges flattened out? Is your helmet comfortable? Do your eyes need to adjust to the natural light or changes in light behind the bowler’s arm?


What are you thinking about or focusing on? Are your thoughts loud and clear or do you have a song stuck in your head? Is time passing slowly in between balls or do you feel rushed? Are you reacting well to each ball in the same way as you’ve trained, or are you doing something out of character because of your anxiousness to do well has taken control of your body?

Once you identify what you like to do physically in between balls, write it down so that you can see it and map out a typical timeline for the order in which you carry out these little tasks. This becomes your physical process.

Now to harness the mind.

What thoughts work best for you? Most players I’ve worked with or read about, speak of the clarity they have when they’re in their best touch; that there are no specific thoughts going through their mind as the bowler releases the ball.

But, how do we achieve this clarity when we’ve had a few bad net sessions leading up to game day, not to mention a restless night of sleep? We need to narrow our focus onto what matters. What matters most is that we watch the ball and allow ourselves to react.

This is where we need to learn to trust those hundreds or thousands of hours worth of training we’ve done up until this point.

It’s at this point, when the bowler is releasing the ball where thinking is actually counter-productive. We don’t need to be thinking in order to react in the best possible way to the ball delivered to us.

After all, we only have a fraction of a second to react in the best possible way we know how. We simply need to trust that if our mind is clear and our intent is positive, we will instinctively play a stroke that gives us the best chance of survival at the same time as giving us the best chance of scoring the maximum number of runs from that delivery.

It’s in the bowler’s run up that some of those deep dark fears can crop up. Those thoughts of getting out and letting everyone down; thoughts that take our focus away from where we need it.

It’s useful to see what the best players do and take bits and pieces of their routines that may feel right to you. In my teenage years, there were few better players to watch than Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey. What words could you make out by watching them during the bowler’s run up and reading their lips? “Watch the ball.” Often repeated time and time again to focus their mind on what matters most.

Why do they do this?

To focus the mind on what matters most. And by repeating the phrase as often as possible, it gives that annoying voice in your head less chance to interrupt!

Sometimes giving even clearer focus to your key phrase helps as well, like ‘watch the white ball’ or ‘watch the seam.’

I challenge you to give it a try during your net sessions this week. Repeat a focusing phrase to yourself as you’re lining up the bowler/thrower in training and work out how much clarity it gives you by how good your shot execution is. If it’s not working for you, try to find a phrase that might work.

After all, answering the following question honestly should give you some clarity:

If you watch the ball out of the bowler’s hand all the way onto your bat, how can you make a mistake?