If you think about it, vision is such an important part of cricket. If you consider how quickly the ball can travel, you only have a split second to take notice of the ball and make your decision.
In many other sports, you often get at least a couple of seconds to take in all the information and decide what your next move is going to be. This isn’t really true to cricket. You can set up the game by applying a specific strategy, but at the end of the day, that one delivery is going to make all the difference. If you’re not ready, you may have to start all over again.
Intense concentration and focus is necessary at key stages, and you’ve got to make sure your eyes are in good shape. If you can’t determine the speed, angle or distance of the ball at any given point you are probably already at a disadvantage.
This reminded me of a specific situation. I remember browsing through the documentaries on the in flight entertainment a while back. There was one on Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably one of the greatest soccer (football) players of all time. So, being a fan, and having a couple of hours free, I thought why not?
There was a specific segment where someone would cross the ball in, and from there they would turn off the lights after the ball had a couple of seconds of airtime. Ronaldo then had to judge the motion of the ball based off the initial few seconds that he was able to see it. The test was to determine if he could still score without a clear vision of the ball itself. A test of his judgement.
Unbelievably, he was able to score consistently. It was amazing to see how a player could continue to perform even after he could not see the ball. To me, this means two things.
1. He has incredible vision and focus during the initial stages. This sets him up for the rest of the given play.
2. He understands how a football behaves and can identify the variables that may affect the way the ball moves. Speed, Distance, Timing, Rotation/Spin.
Basically, you need your eyes to be in top shape. Then only can you really have control over your game. From then on, you can use your experience and knowledge to develop the understanding of how the ball would react in a specific scenario.
So firstly, it may be wise to try out some exercises just to improve your vision and strengthen your eyes. I’ve been working on these two exercises specifically, usually daily.
The first exercise involves you drawing a figure of eight. So basically, what you do is:
- Hold out your right (or left) arm straight in front of you, giving a thumbs up. Make sure it is about eye level.
- Slowly draw a figure of eight using the tip of your thumb.
- Focus directly at the tip of your thumb and follow it.
- Vary the size of your ‘figure eights’ and the speed at which you do them. You can also move clockwise and anticlockwise.
- Do this for about 5 mins with any breaks in between if you feel you need them.
The second one involves adjusting to your eyes to focus at different distances. What I do is:
- Start off in the same position as Exercise 1.
- Focus at the tip of your thumb again.
- Now quickly shift your focus to an item a few metres behind your thumb, and refocus.
- Alternate between focussing on your thumb and any distant object.
- Repeat the process for a couple of mins and feel free to take any breaks in between.
Try out both of these exercises for a while and see if you feel different. Even if not specifically for cricket, they are still great to take care of your eyes and keep them strong and healthy.
This is probably the best starting point and from here, you could work in more exercises or develop your concentration skills even further. Simply continue with these exercises for a while, and when you are in the nets or doing some fielding drills, really focus intently on the ball itself. Your improved vision will probably assist you in understanding what the ball is doing and how it is going behave.
Again, like I mentioned above, there are many factors which influence this, but a great amount of personal experience will create those reference points that allow you to understand the movement before it even takes place. So work on strengthening those eyes, and then get out there and play as much as you can.