Smith makes mental note

Cricket

JAMES ALEXANDER

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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing