That’s exactly the scenario in this Ashes series. England would have targeted Australian captain Michael Clarke. If the captain and leader is dismissed cheaply, then it exerts extra pressure on the other batters. And sends out a strong message.
What England didn’t know was be how easy it would be to take Clarke’s wicket. Once the best batsman in the world, Clarke has completely lost form and confidence. And in the middle of an Ashes tour, rediscovering his elusive touch won’t be easy.
Clarke will be telling himself all the right things…’watch the ball’…’move your feet’…’be committed’…but all with subtle and nagging doubts in the back of his mind.
It is these doubts that mean that the lacking in confidence batsman, thinks they are watching the ball. They are, but not with soft relaxed eyes. There is a tension in the eyes, theat causes a heavy focus on the ball, which means they watch it with fear rather than seeing the ball naturally and thus instinctively reading its movement and variance.
Michael Clarke may feel he has lost his confidence. But lost confidence is very specific. It means a part of your process is no longer working for you. And you have to understand which part of the process that is, and rebuild it slowly and deliberately.
Spending a week in the nets…not so much on his shot making…but on seeing the ball clearly again…would do Clarke the world of good. Once he starts seeing the ball naturally again, his instinctive decision making will follow.
A top player doesn’t lose their ability. What they can lose is trust in their process. When you have been at the top for most of your career, the overbearing intensity of it all can eventually stop you seeing your own game clearly.
Michael Clarke may be pretty close to that point. That why going back to the basics of watching and seeing the ball with soft eyes can re-energise him. As it will re-connect him to the simplicity of the game and his love of batting. Watching the ball soon transitions into seeing the ball…and eventually the cricket ball starts to look as big as a football…and then you start to see it in slowed down time. Then batting becomes effortless.
With his team two-one down and hurting after a heavy Edgbaston defeat, there is a lot on Clarke’s shoulders. But one of the great strengths of top sportsmen, is the ability to clear the mind, and focus exclusively on the task in hand. The next couple of weeks will determine whether Michael Clarke still has the mark of greatness upon him.