Who comes to mind when you think of a player with class?
Perhaps your mind brings you to Michael Vaughan's cover drive, or Shane Warne's constantly accurate variations. Whoever it was, you can be sure they went through some kind of slump in form during their career.
You can empathise with them, but you are not like them in your own game.
The difference between your loss of form and theirs is that they have the old adage behind them: Form is temporary, class is permanent.
What if you don't have that class? Not many club players do, otherwise they wouldn't be in the club game. How do you get yourself back into form?
What is form?
Form seems simple on the surface, but in cricket it means different things to different people. An aggressive fast bowler may put a high price on wicket taking and see going for a few runs as part of the process.
A miserly medium pacer might feel he is in form if he takes the odd wicket while slowing the run rate to a crawl.
The figures might read 5-68 and 1-22 but both bowlers feel in form.
Figures then, are the result of form.
Form itself is much more: It's a feeling.
The ball hits the middle of the bat effortlessly or every catch sticks. In his book on the Zone, Roy Palmer defines the feeling of being in form like this:
"being completely involved in the activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."
You are sure to have experienced this at some time, and you are bound to have wondered why you can't get back there when you are out of form.
As we can see from that definition, your form is a feeling that comes from within you. It isn't something outside of you that comes and goes as it pleases. You control your form, it doesn't control you.
Knowing this gives you the power to pull yourself out of a slump.
How to get back into the form of your life
Most cricketers feel there is a simple solution to form issues: Play yourself out of it. This can work, but it can also make things worse as you get tenser the longer your bad run goes on.
I would say you need to do more to get into form, stay in form and make the occasional drops in form as short as possible.
Try these steps:
1. Use deliberate practice. Practice makes you better so is important at all times. As Jeremy Snape says, every good practice session is an investment in your form. Use practice to groove your muscle memory and get the feelings of what works (and what doesn't). Improve your technique with a coach and do some middle practice with your team mates. Put simply, do what works: I'm a wicketkeeper and I find doing a simple catching drill with a tennis ball makes a huge difference to my game: It makes me concentrate of catching softly so when I switch to a cricket ball it seems easy to catch.
2. Remember the good times. Take a few minutes after every game you play to write down (or blog or twitter) what you did well. You can keep it brief or you can write a full essay on your amazingness. Do this whether you feel you had a good game or a bad game. Try to write down how you felt as well as what happened. The more detailed the better. If you feel your form is lacking then take a few minutes to sit down, read your notes and recall your successes. This will show you that even when out of form you can get back to the old times. It gives you confidence in yourself.
3. Prepare round the clock. If form comes from within, you owe it to yourself to prepare outside practice too. You might have a specific routine that relaxes you. Anything from a pint the night before the match to yoga could push your buttons. It's important to get enough sleep, eat well and know how to relax. Everyone is different, you may need to track what works and what doesn't over a few weeks or you may already know.
When it comes to form there are two types of personality.
Those who treat it as something they expect to be in and those who wonder when it will end. Your mindset needs to be the latter but it's hard to change if it's the former.
Start with the steps above and you will give yourself every chance to be relaxed, confident and in form on the cricket pitch.
by David Hinchliffe, PitchVision Academy
© 2011 miSport Ltd