Chris Waters: It’s all between the ears for Yorkshire batsmen

Tough going: Ryan Sidebottom chats with Adam Lyth during the County Championship Division One matchagainst Essex at Scarborough. 
Picture: James Hardisty
Tough going: Ryan Sidebottom chats with Adam Lyth during the County Championship Division One matchagainst Essex at Scarborough. Picture: James Hardisty
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THE great American golfer Arnold Palmer once observed that “golf is a game of inches”, adding that “the most important are the six inches between your ears.”

It is a philosophy that can be applied to any sport.

A violinist, for example, might nail Rimsky-Korsakov’s fiendishly challenging ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ on a regular basis in practice, but if he or she cannot do so on the concert platform, any behind-the-scenes prowess counts for nothing.

Chris Waters

Talent and technique are one thing but not, in themselves, guarantees of success. Ditto hard work, whether that be on the driving range, on the football training ground, or, in the case of Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s struggling batsmen, in the nets.

A sportsman can do all the training and preparation that is possible, but success invariably comes down to whether he can then produce when the pressure is on, when those vital six inches between the ears are tested just as surely as talent, technique, dedication and desire.

According to Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire first-team coach, his batsmen are struggling at present to master this all-important aspect, insisting that the club’s consistent failure to score sufficient runs in the County Championship is not due to a lack of talent or technical proficiency.

“We’ve got to get the mental side of the game right,” asserted Gale after Yorkshire crashed to a two-day defeat to leaders Essex at Scarborough last week.

“The lads are working really hard, but, as soon as they get to the crease, everything seems to go out of the window.”

On the face of it, this is a pretty serious problem given that anything that happens before a batsman gets to the crease is neither here nor there in terms of the most important part of his job – scoring runs.

A violinist, for example, might nail Rimsky-Korsakov’s fiendishly challenging ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ on a regular basis in practice, but if he or she cannot do so on the concert platform, any behind-the-scenes prowess counts for nothing.

Yorkshire already work with a couple of sports psychologists, so players have access to such assistance, but it comes down to each batsman taking responsibility for his own performance.

My personal view, as one who watches more Yorkshire cricket than is probably healthy for a balanced lifestyle, is that the players have all proved that they can produce.

Adam Lyth, Alex Lees, Harry Brook, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Jack Leaning and Tim Bresnan, who formed the top-six at Scarborough, have all shown that they have what it takes, despite the fact that none are averaging over 30 in this year’s competition.

Lyth has played for England and deservedly so; he is still one of the best players to watch in the country when on song, and he hit 68 in the first innings against Essex before fatally shouldering arms in the second, which rather summed up the malaise.

Lees has made several big scores; Brook looks a fine prospect at the tender age of 18; Kohler-Cadmore is a dynamic striker of the ball; Leaning is a previous Cricket Writers’ Club Young Cricketer of the Year, while Bresnan hit one of the finest hundreds in Yorkshire’s history at Lord’s last summer.

But Yorkshire, who were unlucky not to have the injured Gary Ballance or Shaun Marsh available, managed totals of just 113 and 150.

For Gale, his message to the batsmen is thus...

“You’ve got to go back to when you were successful and realise what works for you and try to replicate that as much as you can out in the middle,” he said.

Yorkshire will hope that the penny drops quickly.