The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket

The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket
India's Suryakumar Yadav plays a shot on his way to hiiting a half-century during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 group A cricket match between the USA and India at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in East Meadow, New York (AFP)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket

The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket
  • Fear of failure is ever present, so a premium is placed on eliminating mistakes, since continued underperforming can mean the end of a contract or career

Fans of cricket may find it impossible to understand the pressures that professional players are under. Although some of us have played good standard club cricket and faced tight match situations, we have not had the pressure of our career and livelihood being at stake, playing in front of crowds, screened by the media and subject to scrutiny. This is now ubiquitous, both mainstream and on social media.

It was instructive, therefore, to listen to one England’s greatest batsmen, at a time before batter became the preferred term and social media existed, provide some insights into these pressures. This was none other than Yorkshire and England’s Geoffrey Boycott. The occasion marked the launch of the 11th book under Boycott’s name — “Being Geoffrey Boycott,” published by Fairfield books — 60 years since he made his debut for England on June 4, 1964. 

This was at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, against Australia. Looking at pictures of him on the day, his large glasses, cap and kit, unadorned by sponsorship logos, are a large remove from the appearance of modern-day cricketers. However, there is a commonality: that of pressure to succeed. In Boycott’s case, that pressure had been heightened when he was told, aged 17, that he needed to wear glasses. This ended his football career, during which he played for Leeds United’s under-18 team. 

In his debut match he top scored in England’s first innings but could not bat in the second because of a finger injury sustained in the first. This kept him out of the following two matches before he scored his maiden Test match century in August 1964. He would go on to score 8,114 runs in 108 Test matches in a career which had its fair share of controversy and turmoil. Between 1974 and 1977 Boycott made himself unavailable for England selection focussing, instead, on captaining Yorkshire.

In late September 1978, his mother died. Two days afterwards, Yorkshire’s committee met to inform Boycott that he was to be removed as the county’s captain because of a failure to win trophies and his unpopularity amongst the players. Boycott was asked if he had suffered from mental health issues during these years. He said no, he had been close to his mother and it had saddened him to see her deteriorate week after week. His reaction was a natural one to a deeply mourned loss. The treatment by Yorkshire compounded this, in terms of its timing and nature.

From the outside this appears a cold-hearted decision, especially its timing. Boycott was devastated. He continued as a player the following season, breaking more records. This says much about his determination to succeed against the odds. He was known for being a singular man and for spending time away from teammates after play. Cricket involves a series of battles between individuals, primarily between bowler and batter. A wicket, a boundary, a catch, a century, a five-wicket haul represents individual achievement within a team setting. Opponents look to identify and expose weaknesses.

It can be argued that this is the case in all sports. However, cricket has a difference, especially with batting. If a batter makes a mistake, he or she is not straight into the next piece of action. There is time to reflect on the reason for the dismissal. It may be days before the player’s next innings. This allows much time for introspection, analysis and self-analysis.

The fear of failure is ever present, so a premium is placed on eliminating mistakes, since continued underperformance can mean the end of a contract or career. Fear induces nervousness, breeds insecurity and anxiety, creating conditions which counteract those needed to succeed. They are also conditions which sports psychologists recognise as underpinning mental illness.

Professional cricketers, as with other athletes, have an inherent desire to succeed. The consequences of failure are evident from an early age and often result in being dropped from the team. Boycott admitted to having a fear of failure during his career, of nerves and of a determination to overcome them. He said that he was able to block out all external noise when batting. This set him apart from many other players, revealing immense mental strength. He also emphasized the need for high-quality technique and practice. This was echoed by a former Australia captain, Ricky Ponting, who contends that, unless playing a certain shot or bowling a particular delivery has not become a habit, it is almost impossible to produce that shot or delivery under pressure.

Such pressure situations have grown exponentially with the advent of T20 cricket.  These are evident in abundance in the current ICC men’s T20 World Cup. South Africa were 3 for three against the Netherlands and 27 for four against Bangladesh, but recovered to make scores that were just sufficient to earn victory. The recoveries were instigated by the middle order batters, notably David Miller. Imagine the pressure that was on him to perform, especially as South Africa has a history of losing matches which it should have won. Crucially, he reined in his natural game and adapted to the pitch conditions. Bangladesh required 11 runs from six deliveries to win against South Africa, two batters were caught on the boundary trying to hit sixes. The match between India and Pakistan went to a super over. Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir was entrusted with it but, under pressure, failed to bowl straight and Pakistan lost. 

The margins in these pressure situations are very thin. Results can go either way, determined by the performance of those who have trained themselves to be able to handle such situations. The mentality required for this was exemplified by Geoffrey Boycott’s approach to the game, completely unlike that of an all-time great Australian all-rounder, Keith Miller, who had served with the Royal Australian Air Force in the Second World War. His dashing approach to life and cricket was summed up in a single (adapted) quote: “Pressure is a Messerschmitt directly behind you, playing cricket is not.”

How times have changed.             


Ukraine’s Natus Vincere clinch Counter-Strike 2 championship at Esports World Cup

Ukraine’s Natus Vincere clinch Counter-Strike 2 championship at Esports World Cup
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Ukraine’s Natus Vincere clinch Counter-Strike 2 championship at Esports World Cup

Ukraine’s Natus Vincere clinch Counter-Strike 2 championship at Esports World Cup
  • Side defeated G2 in best of 3 showdown 2-1 to claim $400,000 prize

RIYADH: Natus Vincere of Ukraine etched their name in the esports history books on Sunday after overcoming G2 to win the Esports World Cup Counter-Strike 2 competition.

Global audiences and another capacity crowd at the SEF Arena in Boulevard Riyadh City enjoyed an exciting battle as the two teams faced off in an all-European showdown — the first in an Esports World Cup Grand Final.

With both registering impressive performances and eliminating some CS2 heavyweights en route to the final, the match closed out week three of the Esports World Cup.

With a $400,000 prize and vital EWC Club Championship points at stake, NAVI came from behind to win the best of three grand final 2-1 and clinch the CS2 title.

Reflecting on the victory at the Esports World Cup, iM of NAVI said: “It feels amazing to win — we took this tournament seriously. We had high expectations from the start and we kept the same standards throughout. To win the tournament is a great feeling — for me individually and for us as a team — because it shows that the hard work we’ve been putting in is paying off.

“G2 played some very good CS2 tonight. They provided a type of test we’d not experienced this week until the grand final. But we came back and we’re delighted.”

For NAVI, winning CS2 capped off a memorable week in Riyadh. Since the 15-team $1 million tournament began on Wednesday, the Ukranian club beat FURIA 2-0 in the opening stage before overcoming FaZe Clan 2-0 and MOUZ 2-1 in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

The NAVI lineup consists of: b1t (Valerij Vakhovsjkyj, Ukraine); Aleksib (Aleksi Virolainen, Finland); jL (Justinas Lekavicius, Lithuania); iM (Mihai Ivan, Romania); and w0nderful (Ihor Zhandov, Ukraine).

When asked about the reasons behind their consistent form and brilliant performances, jL said: “We showed a mental edge over our opponents. We went behind in matches this week but showed resilience and came back every time. This is a credit to the psychology of this team.

“We’ve also been in great form over the last six months. Winning here this week shows that we’re doing things right — both between tournaments and when we’re out there competing.”

The Esports World Cup is running from July 3 to Aug. 25 with 22 tournaments across 21 titles throughout its eight-week duration. Week four begins on July 23 with three tournaments taking place daily until July 28.


Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector

Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector
Updated 22 July 2024
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Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector

Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector
  • Explosive Indian batter Suryakumar Yadav was named skipper for India’s T20 format for Sri Lanka tour 
  • Pandya, who was vice-captain during last month’s T20 World Cup, has suffered from fitness problems 

Mumbai: Hardik Pandya lost out on India’s T20 captaincy to Suryakumar Yadav because of concerns over his availability after frequent injury absences, India’s chief selector Ajit Agarkar said Monday.
Explosive middle-order batsman Suryakumar, 33, was last week named Rohit Sharma’s successor in the T20 format for India’s white-ball tour of Sri Lanka, which begins Saturday.
All-rounder Pandya, 30, was Rohit’s deputy during India’s T20 World Cup triumph last month but he has suffered from fitness problems and missed the 50-over World Cup last year with an ankle injury.
“Fitness has been something that he’s struggled with,” Agarkar told reporters in Mumbai alongside new coach Gautam Gambhir.
“As selectors, it becomes difficult then. The thought behind it was that we want someone who is likely to be available more.”
India begin their Sri Lanka trip with the first of three Twenty20 internationals on Saturday and Pandya has reportedly opted out of the three subsequent one-day internationals.
He was “still a very important player,” Agarkar said. “And that’s what we want him to be, those skill sets are hard to find.”
Agarkar praised Suryakumar’s captaincy credentials.
“He is one of the best T20 batters in the world,” said Agarkar.
“We feel that Surya has all the necessary qualities to be a good captain.
“We wanted a captain, who is likely to play all the games.”
Suryakumar would remain solely a T20 player, said Agarkar. Rohit has retained the 50-over captaincy.
Gambhir explained his coaching philosophy, speaking to reporters for the first time since succeeding Rahul Dravid.
“I think it is important to give players the freedom, that’s what I believe in,” he said.
“The best relationship is built on trust. I can promise that the most important thing is that they will always have my back.”
Rohit, 37, and Virat Kohli, 35, both quit T20 internationals after the World Cup.
Gambhir, a former India teammate of both Kohli and Rohit, expects the veteran pair to remain key figures in the Test and 50-over teams.
“Both those guys have a lot of cricket left in them,” Gambhir said, adding he hoped they are motivated to feature in the 2024/25 tour to Australia and next year’s 50-over Champions Trophy.
Retirement is “a very personal decision” he added.
 


Former Tottenham boss Redknapp joins forces with UAE-based ‘Green Goals’ campaign

Former Tottenham boss Redknapp joins forces with UAE-based ‘Green Goals’ campaign
Updated 22 July 2024
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Former Tottenham boss Redknapp joins forces with UAE-based ‘Green Goals’ campaign

Former Tottenham boss Redknapp joins forces with UAE-based ‘Green Goals’ campaign
  • The initiative by company Fuelre4m looks to harness the power of football to drive sustainability and environmental change

DUBAI: UAE-based clean-fuel technology firm Fuelre4m have announced a partnership with Harry Redknapp — former Tottenham, Portsmouth and West Ham football manager — as part of their “Green Goals” campaign.

The initiative aims to utilize former football stars to raise awareness and action for sustainability.

“With the global football industry emitting over 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, more top players need to join in to make a bigger impact,” Redknapp said recently.

“Football’s carbon footprint is massive, and players do have a responsibility to help. They can do more by getting involved in green campaigns, pushing for eco-friendly stadiums and clubs, and using social media to spread awareness and influence fans.”

“Football has the power to inspire millions,” he added. “If we can use that influence to promote sustainability, we can make a real difference. That’s why I’m excited to be part of Fuelre4m’s ‘Green Goals’ campaign.”

Rob Mortimer, managing director of Fuelre4m, highlighted the significance of Redknapp’s support.

“Having Harry Redknapp on board is a game-changer. His influence in the football world is immense, and his support for our campaign underscores the importance of sustainability in sports,” he said.

“Harry’s involvement will undoubtedly motivate players and fans to take action, amplifying our efforts to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuels.”

FuelRe4m has developed a fuel-reforming technology that enhances the combustion process in engines, the company stated.

By breaking down impurities and complex hydrocarbons in liquid fossil fuels, the Re4mx technology is aimed at ensuring a more efficient and cleaner burn.

This results in increased power output, lower fuel consumption, and a significant reduction in harmful emissions.


Neymar revels in Esports World Cup action in Riyadh

Neymar revels in Esports World Cup action in Riyadh
Updated 22 July 2024
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Neymar revels in Esports World Cup action in Riyadh

Neymar revels in Esports World Cup action in Riyadh
  • Al-Hilal’s Brazilian superstar was avid spectator at the largest gaming and esports festival in the world

RIYADH: Neymar, the Brazilian superstar footballer who plays for Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League, was a delighted spectator in Riyadh at the inaugural Esports World Cup, the globe’s largest gaming festival.

The No. 10 joined packed crowds to watch the action at Boulevard Riyadh City, as teams in the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” and “Counter-Strike 2” contests battled it out in the finals.

He also met Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation.

The world event features a unique cross-game structure pitting the top clubs and players against one another across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

Held at the 8,000-capacity SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City, the event runs until Aug. 25, and has a tournament prize pool of $60 million, the largest in the history of esports.

More than 1,500 players, of over 60 nationalities, are participating at the Esports World Cup.

As well as the “Dota 2 Riyadh Masters,” week three of the competition featured elite action in the “Counter Strike 2” and “PUBG Mobile” contests.

 


Diogo Jota says Riyadh Esports World Cup ‘a truly amazing experience’

Diogo Jota says Riyadh Esports World Cup ‘a truly amazing experience’
Updated 22 July 2024
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Diogo Jota says Riyadh Esports World Cup ‘a truly amazing experience’

Diogo Jota says Riyadh Esports World Cup ‘a truly amazing experience’
  • Liverpool and Portugal star, an avid gamer and investor, watched all the ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and ‘Counter-Strike 2’ action, and met esports players

RIYADH: Diogo Jota, the Liverpool and Portugal footballer, who attended the Esports World Cup in Riyadh on Sunday, has declared the globe’s largest gaming festival “a truly amazing experience.”

Jota, an avid gamer and investor in multinational esports organization Galaxy Racer, watched all the action at Boulevard Riyadh City as teams contested the finals of the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” and “Counter-Strike 2” competitions.

The eight-week Esports World Cup features a unique cross-game structure pitting the top clubs and players against one another across 22 competitions in 21 leading games.

Held within the 8,000-capacity Saudi Esports Federation Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City, it runs until Aug. 25 and has a tournament prize pool of $60 million, the largest in the history of the sport.

The attacker, who has 42 caps and played for Portugal at the UEFA Euro 2024 this summer, met participating stars, including from Saudi Arabia’s Team Falcons, and happily swapped gaming and esports stories.

Jota said: “Being here at the inaugural Esports World Cup is a truly amazing experience. The organization and scale behind this event are truly impressive, even more than I anticipated.

“I’ve always believed in the potential of esports, even before starting my own team, and EWC is proof that this scene is evolving rapidly. This level of investment and infrastructure is exactly what esports needs to grow and reach a wider audience.

“I’m excited to see how EWC continues to evolve and push the boundaries of competitive gaming.”

Jota, who wears the No. 20 for Liverpool, was ranked world No. 1 in FIFA 21’s Champions Leaderboard. A regular streamer on Twitch, he also won an invitational series of FIFA matches, run by the Premier League, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then a Wolverhampton Wanderers player, Jota defeated future Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold in the final.

Last year, Jota’s own esports organization, Diogo Jota Esports, was rebranded to Luna Galaxy — coming under the Galaxy Racer umbrella.

Prior to this, Diogo Jota Esports participated in the FIFAe Finals at Gamers8, organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, at Boulevard Riyadh City last summer, with Daniel “DFernandes” Fernandes finishing in the top 16.

More than 1,500 players, of over 60 nationalities, are battling it out at the inaugural Esports World Cup. Week three of the competition features action in the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters,” “Counter Strike 2,” and “PUBG Mobile” contests.