ICC World Twenty20 June 6, 2009

'The next 15 years will be about working on the minds'

Cricinfo spoke to Mike Young, Australia's fielding coach, and Jeremy Snape, South Africa's sports psychologist and performance coach, for their views on the technical and mental aspects of fielding in pressure situations

England's lack of fielding execution proved extremely costly in the closing stages of Friday night's stunning defeat to the Netherlands. Cricinfo spoke to Mike Young, Australia's fielding coach, and Jeremy Snape, South Africa's sports psychologist and performance coach, for their views on the technical and mental aspects of fielding in pressure situations.

Mike Young

You hear it all the time and it's a word I hate: choking. Most guys at this level don't choke. But when the adrenaline is going, you can overdo things and try to play beyond your limitations.

Sometimes - and this can happen to any team - you rush things. There were times in England's game where they rushed throws they really didn't have to, and that can hurt you in the end. There's nothing wrong with them as a fielding side. They do their work. But every player reacts to certain situations differently. I don't think it's a pressure thing as much as it's about players getting so pumped up - wanting to do well, fearing failure - that they can overdo things and rush.

It comes with the territory. You're at home, you're playing a tight game you think you should win and you get pumped up. I would rather that than have guys moping around in the field not showing any emotion. I watched that game, and you can't tell me Stuart Broad wasn't giving it everything he could.

I think (England) have got a lot of ability in the field. I was really impressed with their skills and commitment when I worked with them. I would rate Paul Collingwood in the top-five in-the-ring fieldsmen in world cricket. There's nothing wrong with them.

As a coach, all you can do is work with the guys on the basic mechanics, try not to overcomplicate your drills, and help to create good habits in them. From a sports science point of view, I'm not sure what you can do.

Jeremy Snape

One drill I used before (South Africa) played at the MCG was to give each player a recording of the crowd noise at the IPL final. It doesn't come more intense than that. They played it on their iPods while they did their fielding drills to build up the noises and the distractions they could expect to face in a high-pressure match situation.

You want to put the players under some pressure at training. You want to speed things up or distract them. In the same way that someone will overload their muscles to fatigue in the gym, it can help to overload a players' thinking in training. That way, when it comes to a match, they are used to performing their skills under pressure.

A winning mindset is one that stays in the present. It is about focussing on the process rather than the outcome. When Tiger Woods is lining up a six-foot putt to win the Open, he's treating it as a six-foot putt. The enormity of the situation shouldn't come into it. It's the same with cricket. A player should be focussing on bowling the yorker, hitting the boundary or executive the run-out rather than thinking of it in the context of the match situation. It's in those defining moments that all the training you've done comes into play.

Another thing is that there needs to be clarity in the roles of players. If every individual knows exactly what they are doing and accepts that, it will create a general sense of calm. That can give a team a sense of underlying confidence.

The importance of the mental aspect of sport is becoming more recognised. I think the last 15 years was about working on athletes' bodies and getting them as fit and strong as they can be. I think the next 15 years will be about working on their minds. There are skills here that players can be taught that will help them in their athletic pursuits.

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo