Choking as a bowler in cricket. The psychological lessons taken from Scott Boswell’s story.
Scott Boswell was once considered a player with good potential. In 2001, he played most games as the county finished runners-up in the Sunday League and the C&G final. In the semi-final, he cleaned up four England players in a match-winning performance and was considered a champion for Leicestershire. What you are about to see next is his performance in the final at the Lord in 2001.
In this final, the Lord’s slope, his sweaty palm and his stress level outplayed him which led to one of the worst choking events for a bowler. In his second over, he sent down eight wides, five of them in a row. His match figures were two overs for 23. After this horrible match, he only played once more but his spirit was badly broken. He was released a month later.
It took Scott almost 20 years to be able to re-watch the video footage of this event. In it, he shared a lot of useful information that I think can benefit many cricketers. Hence, I will analyse his video review after 20 years from the point of view of a sport psychology consultant to give you some lessons.
1.52 : The ability for athletes to be able to see their mistakes objectively, so they know what they can change. This is not easy, especially with such an emotional event like this.
2.20: held the ball so hard, not trusting his subconscious mind, and froze. Could not let go of the ball
3.30 : talking about his drive and motivation now to become a good coach because of what happened to him. His understanding of what went wrong mechanically and emotionally could help another player who went through the same thing.
5.29: A situation where Scott as a pitch man could not catch the ball. Emotionally he wanted to get back to his game, but physically his body could not move.
6.06: Scott described how his rigid body stopped him from even getting the water bottle from nearby. A good lesson for teammates to pay attention to others if they behave weirdly as such.
6.40 Scott talked about feeling not right when experiencing the Yip. The Lesson: cricketers need to learn and have an acute awareness of when their body become stiffer than usual, or when their anxiety may get the best of them.
8.15 Fan cheered loudly and sang his song while he felt awful
8.50: No communication in the team to him about whether he could bowl again.
10.23: how he wished to be injured to be taken out from the match è avoiding the embarrassment
10.50: Scott analysed his movement in the video to be very fast and rushed, and no teammates attempted to calm him down. Poor body language. Learning lesson: SLOW DOWN AND RELAX.
11.30: Analyzed biomechanics of the failed shot
12.40: over-compensated so threw ball off the left side
12.50: Scott started to see that it was not as bad as he thought it was.
13.39: how embarrassing their teammates felt for themselves. That put even more pressure on Scott. Lesson: If teammates cannot cheer him up, at least avoid as much as possible showing the disappointment and disapproval to the struggling athlete.
14.40: Scott shared his mentality which tended to please people and seek approval from others, which could affect him badly in this scenario. He started to worry about what other people were thinking. This thought distracted him from focusing on bowling
17.00: Scott talked about his emotion when coming back to the Lord 10 years later and he was still so traumatized by the 2001 event. How this event changed his whole life and he could not play cricket after this one occasion.
19.15: He described how much he was hurt for 10 years wanting to fix that event again. Could not have closure
21.00: the incident left him with so much negativity that he forgot his positive side of playing cricket until he played against some big name many years later. To be able to play with positive mindset.
24.07: analysed his posture, eyes, and how rush he was during the game, He just wanted to get this finished. No one put a hand around him to cheer or support him.
26.10: Scott suffered from anxiety, his mind ran a million mile per hour.
29.00: He lost count of how many balls he threw.
30.10: Scott regretted not having a teammate who could talk to him, calm him down and stopped from turning around and around.
31.00: now he has gotten closure for this event. He found and understood lots of reasons that built up and led to this event happened: Form, injury, personality….
31.50: it is therapeutic that he can see things now with a different light
33.30: what if the last ball hit the wicket and how it could have changed the whole story.
While the second video is 34 minutes plus long, I find it very interesting with many lessons. It is rare that we can find an athlete who choked at this magnitude and can share objectively about his experience.
My learning through this story is as follows:
- Choking and the Yip can happen at any time unannounced.
- Cricketers need to learn to be aware of their physical and mental state so that they can seek help before it gets worse. (e.g. Scott got frozen and could not get the water bottle)
- The importance of teammates who observe the difference in body language of bowler, batter and step in to calm their teammates when necessary.
- The Yip happened to Scott due to various reasons: poor form, injury, pleasing personality.
- The hardest job for cricketers is to learn from their mistake and move on without criticizing their personality or take it to heart. Otherwise, their confidence would be destroyed easily.
- When you are in trouble, slow down, breathe and do your best to relax.
In an interview, Boswell mentioned that he had never played in a final like this before. He struggled to bowl against left-handers in the past. He also did not have the self-belief or the congruence between the conscious and subconscious mind. On top of that, his action was not biomechanically great. So when he was put under extreme pressure, with the noise and roar of the audience increased after each wide bowl, he choked.
The silver lining from this story is that Scott overcame this horrible incident (which was ranked the 9th worst choking sport event of all time by The Observer) to become a respectable cricket coach and teacher. He uses all his knowledge and experience to help the younger generation avoid his mistakes. Although he could not finish his cricket athlete career the way he wanted, he still gets to live with cricket – his favourite sport and he loves his job.