Cricket: England start work with mind games

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England's players are including one-to-one sessions with a sports psychologist in their preparations for the series in the West Indies.

All 36 players who make up England's three senior winter squads, have gathered together in Lanzarote for warm weather training and fitness work, and private sessions with one Steve Bull.

"I can see the traditionalists shaking their heads - especially when they see photographs of the lads windsurfing or scuba-diving or something," said Wayne Morton, the physiotherapist. "But all the work that is being done here is cross-training and directly related to the task of making our players better international cricketers.

"Physical fitness is a key element to being able to put cricket skills into practice during a match. But mental toughness is also an area where we have been lacking and if Steve's work gets even five per cent more out of a particular player then it is a big benefit to England."

A former PE teacher, Bull was trained in Canada and acted as the 1994 Great Britain Olympic team's sports psychologist. During the past dozen years he had worked in a whole range of professional sports.

"Mental toughness was the area in particular that I was asked to work on," said Bull, for whom Sir Richard Hadlee is one of the role models he uses.