Tuesday 1 December 2009


Form - or more accurately the lack of it - is an ineffable link between the club player and the pro. For the amateur, much of the professional experience can only be guessed at; it's probably impossible, even on your best day, to really know what it's like to hit the ball as they do, to deliver when you really have to, to play with your future on the line.

The absence of form, though, is universal. Watching Kevin Pietersen scratch around like a mortal, I could almost feel the ball hitting the bat just slightly away from the middle, could sense the disconnect between brain and hand, could know with some certainty how he felt. We've all been there

Being able to do something one day and then not the next is in a way what makes us human. The subtlest of things affect us in the smallest of ways, and it all adds up. It's not really the absence of form that's remarkable, rather it's the huge and complex sequence of reactions and timing required for being in form that's the miracle.

There seems to be no transitionary state between the two, either. Form doesn't appear to come back over a period of weeks. It's absent and then present, sometimes after the proverbial shot 'hit straight out of the middle' and sometimes after a scratchy fifty that has you remembering how it feels to stay in. 

Boycott always recommended a return to basics - hit the ball in the V enough times and the rest will take care of itself. Bob Woolmer's magisterial Art And Science Of Cricket has this to say: 'Many coaches can confirm that after a shocking performance in the middle, a struggling batsman's glaring technical faults evaporate the minute he enters the nets. Because batting is a reflex that occurs at a subconscious level, the more the mind tends to override those reflexes the more likely it is that errors will develop. It is thus vital to help the failing batsman to correct the erroneous thinking patterns that have developed as a result of repeated failure. That is not to deny the need for constant vigilance on the technical side, rather to stress that a more holistic approach almost always pays off when addressing a lack of form'.

Those two approaches are not exclusive. The beautiful internal rhythm that striking the ball straight back past the bowler produces is a holistic, healing thing in itself - the heartbeat of batting.

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