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The Tao of Cricket ? Overcoming Tigers? Mental Blocks (2004)

 
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Another day passes by in Kingston, and the Bangladesh team is back at square one again. After a monumental show from the West Indies bunch, our batsmen proved yet again that they have not learned a thing or two as we hang on for 66/3 at the end of the 3rd day's play. What was more disturbing than to see Hannan Sarker?s record-busting failure, was the aggressive attitude of the Bangladesh captain Bashar as he came out slogging while his team was over the cliff hanger hanging on for dear life.

The Tao of Cricket ? Overcoming Tigers? Mental Blocks

Published: 7th June, 2004

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Another day passes by in Kingston, and the Bangladesh team is back at square one again. After a monumental show from the West Indies bunch, our batsmen proved yet again that they have not learned a thing or two as we hang on for 66/3 at the end of the 3rd day's play. What was more disturbing than to see Hannan Sarker?s record-busting failure, was the aggressive attitude of the Bangladesh captain Bashar as he came out slogging while his team was over the cliff hanger hanging on for dear life.

Bangladesh, despite its poverty and panache for bureaucracy, went all out, in my opinion, to train its players. I never thought I would live the day to see Bangladesh?s money-no-object attitude when it came to a topic other than ?buying? vote for local elections. It even hired psychologists to teach the players how to overcome the defeatist mentality.

Mental blocks?

Mental blocks?

While the bowling improved tremendously, Bangladeshi batsmen remained loyal to their old merry way of practicing cricket. The result, more or less, remains painfully the same. There had been, of course, moment of brilliance, like that of the first test against West Indies, where it looked as if the team has finally came to terms with its potential. They prevailed despite the dismal performance from the top order batsmen.

Not unlike most fans of Bangladesh Cricket, I too have been agonizing over the team's consistent inconsistencies. From their performance and fighting spirit shown in the first test, we know that this team is capable of overcoming odds, imposing its will on the opponents. It has talented batsmen who are capable of turning it on, and have energetic bowlers.

As a student of Martial Arts, I had been exposed to various facets of what is described as the art of ?mind games? ? where one is not limited or dependent on to his/her physical abilities alone. I have experienced the benefits of having these fighting attitudes employed both in the confinement of school mat as well as out in real life. Most traditional martial artists who are not practicing their arts as sports, will agree that when it comes to overcoming the opponent, it is never the physical but the mental and spiritual abilities that get things done.

There had been numerous examples where the principles taught in traditional martial arts had been juxtaposed in sports world to overcome mental blocks, to cultivate the fighting attitudes in teams and in individual athletes.

As a L.A. native, I have been aware of the Zen1 Master, Phil Jackson employing these age old techniques to build a championship attitude in Los Angeles Lakers team ? a team had long been a depository for mega stars with egos matching the Hollywood sign. The pre and post Jackson era Lakers are testament- that talent alone is not enough to be champions.

Jackson is known to have his players read different books from the likes of great masters of martial arts, to have them connect to their inner selves and overcoming the egos and learn to work as a unit instead of a disjointed bunch.

Dav Whatmore, in my opinion, needs to steal a page from L.A. Lakers playbook and make it compulsory for his team to read the works of legendary authors like the great Miyamoto Musashi?s The Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho) and Sun Tzu?s The Art of War etc.

As an ordinary fan, I truly believe that BD Tigers can benefit tremendously if they use some of the basic mental strategies taught in traditional martial arts. A lot of these mental and especially spiritual strategies remain behind the curtain of vow of secrecy- shared only amongst students who spent some time in pursuing that knowledge and in some way proved themselves to be worthy of having those secrets revealed.

While these nebulous ideas ascribed to Tao2, can be construed as mere heresy or snake oil to some, I can testify that even someone like myself whose martial arts knowledge is extremely rudimentary, had benefited in employing some of the mental/spiritual techniques in every aspects of my life.

I would never dare nor pretend to have any answer to our team?s problem with mental blocks. Rather, I will share some of my own experience in overcoming inhibition, fear and bad habits in and out of mat and will try to draw a parallel to the experience in a cricket field.

?The man and the sword are one. Fight with the spirit and the sword will follow?? -written across the back wall, was the first thing I noticed as I walked into the dojo3 for the first time.

It would take me another five years to begin to understand that quote by the founder of our traditional Karate-do4 school. Soon, I realized that sword and fight were just metaphors ? not limited to the confinement of a karate mat.

When a karateka5 is standing in front of an opponent in preparation for kumate6, his/her sword is the body- representing the physical skills, the techniques drilled after years of practice. The better the skills are, the sharper the sword is. Yet, having the best physical skills is not enough to win the fight, for there will always be an opponent with superior skills set.

Interesting body language

Interesting body language

In Cricket, the bat (or the ball) is the sword in the battle. For a battle to continue, the cricketer must have a sharpened sword, by having his techniques mastered to a point that they come naturally without ever having to put much thinking behind it while ball is in flight. But just like in any battle, having the best of the weapons, sharpest skills will not win an opponent if one lacks the necessary will and spirit behind it.

Unlike the three-dimensional body, growth in spiritual realm is infinite. In traditional martial arts (vs. competition or sport oriented ones) the goal always has been to discover, walk and operate in this spiritual domain. Most of us, however, are either not aware of our mental/spiritual power or remain skeptical of any such ability(ies). To have an idea of the presence of spiritual energy, all we need is to look at the animal kingdom. We have seen the tapes of two animals confronting each other in the wild for territorial claim, seizing each other out. Most of the time one of them will back down yielding the fortress to the other without ever getting into a physical fight. Unlike us human beings, animals are more in tuned with the spiritual sides and can win or lose a battle based on the size and strength of their spiritual energy.

It was not until I learned how to unshackle myself from my physical limitation in a fight, did I realized the potential of the abilities of one's mind and spirit. Coming up through the ranks, I remember being always worried, nervous and hoping that the teacher would not call me for kumite6 or uncooperative sparring. In our discipline where, no tagging or point system was present, it was as real as it could get in a real fight. Only an immense control ability of the students was the difference between a bruised chest muscle and broken vertebrae. Yes, I did have to have my sword polished for those fights but I did not have the luxury to pick and choose my weapons. Thanks to tenacious practice, my weapon and defensive blocks were already programmed and my body was expected to know what to do in a defensive or offensive situation. Once the fight began, the urgency and sheer speed were too overwhelming to think about any physical move or technique.

When a batsman faces his opponent in the cricket battle, his bat should be but an extension of his limb. As the ball is rocketing down the path, his weapons, be it a defensive technique or and offensive stroke play, should come as if it was exactly how he wanted. Nothing more, nothing less. The sword will follow the spirit. ?He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks? said great Sun Tzu. Fighting spirit as such needs to be imbued in both batting and bowling lineup.

Another one of the most profound spiritual techniques used in fight is called ?End Result? factor. A true martial artist knows how the fight will end. It is he, not his opponent who dictates the outcome. When he enters the battle, it is only because it was the last resort and for a virtuous and noble cause. His ethos, fighting ethics separate him from his opponent. He stands for what is right and right must prevail. When the Samurais7 face each other for the first time, the result is decided before the Katana7 is drawn, for it is only a breath and blink that would be the difference between the victor and his opponent.

In the cricket ground, battle begins before the ball is delivered to the batsman. As the batsman walks in, he glances his surrounding, internalize the field position and decides the end result for the next six deliveries. A smart fighter is aware of the changing variables and constants of his environment, he makes adjustments accordingly but remains resolute to his ?End Result?. Even in defense, he doesn?t retreat or succumbs to the opponent. Fight continues between two spiritual entities with the same spirit and energy level as that of an offensive strike.

The very last spiritual phenomenon I will discuss here is known as the ?Cause and Effect? factor. This is probably the technique that people can relate to the most. Every one of us in our daily lives is subjected to this phenomenon. In life, we either are source of any event hence causing its occurrence; or are effected/influenced by that very incident. For example, if one gets into fight with his/her boss and let it ruin his/her whole day, he/she is said to be, being ?at effect? (while the fight itself was the Cause). One the other hand, if he/she can overcome that setback and goes on with the rest of the day without being clouded by the incident, he/she is described as being ?Causative? over the incident/situation.

In fight, despite one?s best effort, a lot of things may not go according to the plan. An opponent may be of significantly higher talent and may land a solid strike. They are all can be the root of the ?cause? of the incident, the fighter with higher spiritual might will never allow himself to be at effect of the incident or any negative situation and heed to the opponent and be derailed from his strategy. The goal, in fight, is to put your opponent ?at effect?, make him angry and deviate from his strategy. Anger and ego are two of the biggest vices in winning a fight for they blind a fighter from his goal and strategy and drive him for instant goal in favor of long-term success.

I remember always being admonished for getting sucked into the energy of the fight and loosing my strategy, forgetting my very basic defensive techniques etc., as I would spar higher ranking brown belts. Not till I myself passed that threshold and realized that I was completely at effect in those fights. Those guys with higher mental and spiritual energy, independent of their age and physical agilities were winning every time against us lower belts with no exposure to those special techniques in our arsenal. The opponent will do everything to sway the fighter from his plan and put him 'at effect'. Even now, I have to remind myself: ?Do not fight his fight, let him fight yours?.

Sabina Park, or any other cricket ground is the battlefield. Our players need to be always causative. Lara and company has imposed their will upon us by declaring with that huge total. The Tigers are completely at effect. By being at effect, they are not playing their own game but those of Best, Lara etc. When one is at effect, his/her otherwise natural abilities escape through the window. Nervous energy takes over and he/she is at the total mercy of the opponent.

In the Tigers team, I cannot think of any better example of someone being at effect than those of Hannan and Kapali (not specific to this test). Hannan from his consecutive ducks and Kapali from the pressure from ?high? received from success in Pakistan tour. Collectively as a team, Tigers went into the game being at effect from the euphoria of imposing our will on WI in first test.

West Indies, on the other hand went into the game being totally causative, especially after smacking a thunderstorm of 113 without any lose on the last session of the first test. As a team they took up Lara?s challenge and became the cause of BD?s grief.

Day Four will be the time for a realistic look at team make-up, strength of the character of the Tigers team. While the hope of winning may be long over for this test, the game remains very much a mental one. Tigers need to fight for their pride, for their earned spot to in the big boys playground.

A Samurai is not expected to win every battle but his spirit is never beatable. He makes the ultimate sacrifice without blinking while defending his honor, pride and creed.

Tiger is one of the five animals of nature whose spirit in its natural self is imbued by martial artists ? samurais and warrior sages alike for generations. Its time for Bangladesh Tigers, to call upon the fighting spirit of the Royal Bengal Tigers and start the real fight.

A Samurai, fallen in a battle, is honored by his opponent for his fighting spirit and revered for his skill. Win or lose, the Tigers need to keep on fighting instead of succumbing to will of their opponent.

  1. Zen (Chinese) ? ?doctrine that enlightenment can be attained through direct intuitive insight?.
  2. Tao(Chinese) ? It is said if one can explain ?Tao?, its no longer Tao. However here is the dictionary term: In Confucianism, the right manner of human activity and virtuous conduct seen as stemming from universal criteria and ideals governing right, wrong, and other categories of existence.
  3. Dojo (jp) ? Literally means ?place of enlightenment?, - used to describe martial arts school.
  4. KarateDo (jp)? ?Kara? ?Empty, ?Te? ? Hands, Do ? Way, Karatedo ? Way of Empty Hands.
  5. Karateka ? Practitioner of Karate.
  6. Kumite (jp) ? Sparring uncooperative.
  7. Katana ? The fighting and sacred sword (long one) of Samurai.

 

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