Smith makes mental note
Thursday 02 November 1995
reports from East London
Only eight days' first-class cricket separate England from the first Test and now the major players must start to hit the right notes. Yet Devon Malcolm, a proven if inconsistent match-winner, has made such a wretched start that he might now have only a peripheral interest in this tour.
Malcolm cut a solitary figure at nets yesterday, bowling on his own with no help or even encouragement from the management. He has been left out of the match starting against Border at their Buffalo Park ground here today, while Peter Martin, who has a broken right ring finger, will play.
Robin Smith is another whose early-tour form has caused concern, yet he is certain to be in the XI for the Test match. Smith is a curious contradiction. His brutal power with the bat suggests unlimited self-belief, yet in reality he is a man whose head churns round like a washing machine full of thoughts, theories and doubts.
He once wrote a book on the psychology of batting and is constantly searching for the mental equilibrium that will bring him even more runs for his adopted country. Now he thinks he might have found it. Smith has been consulting the hypnotist Paul McKenna who has also worked with the boxer Nigel Benn. McKenna has helped the Hampshire batsman to relax.
Smith explains: "My anxiety level has reduced, while my focus and concentration have improved. It has been absolutely brilliant. When I was out of Test cricket for nine months before being recalled this summer, I wondered if I had lost the big-match temperament. I was advised Paul might be able to help.
"I have had three or four sessions with him. He puts me into an hypnotic state. I'm not a zombie, but it allows him to talk to the subconscious half of my brain. As cricketers, we spend hours practising batting, bowling and fielding, but neglect the mental side - which I reckon is at least 50 per cent of being a successful sportsman.
Smith uses the word "focus" a lot and says he is focused more on his batting because he has cut down on his non-cricketing activities. Keith Fletcher, when he was England manager, once criticised Smith for allowing himself to be distracted by commercial ventures. Smith now acknowledges this was the case and believes 500 runs in the series is a realistic personal target.
A total of 49 runs in four innings is hardly the start he wanted, but Smith is happy with the way he has been batting in the nets. He is struggling to find his timing on the slow pitches in the matches, though, and was not pleased when told the East London track is regarded as the most funereal in South Africa. However, it might also draw the sting from Makhaya Ntini, just 18 and making his debut but one of the fastest young bowlers in this country.
ENGLAND: A J Stewart (capt), J P Crawley, M R Ramprakash, G P Thorpe, R A Smith, G A Hick, R C Russell (wkt), D G Cork, D Gough, R K Illingworth, P J Martin.
BORDER: P J Botha, F J C Cronje, P N Kirsten (capt), D J Cullinan, P C Strydom, S C Pope, S J Palframan (wkt), I L Howell, B C Fourie, P A N Emslie, M Ntini.
Latest in Sport
Manny Pacquiao secures $12.5m mansion by giving seller four tickets to 2 May fight with Floyd Mayweather
WWE WrestleMania 31: What time does it start? Full match card and preview ahead of event
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
Manchester United transfer news: Chris Smalling and Phil Jones face uncertain future with contract renewal talks on hold
New Zealand vs Australia - Cricket World Cup Final preview: Kiwis must bridge a gulf to take world crown
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...