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How 2 days with Jacques Dallaire helped Watson conquer short ball fear

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Shane Watson had a glittering career of nearly two decades as a premier all-rounder in white-ball cricket, at the international and franchise levels. He carved a reputation for stepping up when needed in big games and tournaments, while juggling to play all three formats for Australia and then transforming into a sought-after T20 leagues batter.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, during a recent hectic period of commentary in IPL 2024 and the launch of his second book ‘The Winner’s Mindset’ by HarperCollins Publishers India, Watson talks about overcoming the short ball fear, having a life-changing meeting with author and performance coach Dr Jacques Dallaire, and how he used his mental skills to play a memorable 117 not out in IPL 2018 final for Chennai Super Kings.

Q. You talk in the book about having absolutely life changing two days with Dr Jacques Dallaire. Can you elaborate on what all transpired in those two days?

A. I was at sliding doors moments in my life when I got connected with Dr. Jacques via Aussie IndyCar driver. Will Power. Dr Jacques’ background is over 50 years of working with high performance people on their mental side, predominantly in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, special forces.

I was going through a challenging time in my life at a point where I was neither performing, nor anywhere near my best. It looked like I was going to retire because I just knew that I couldn’t play the way I used to be able to do.

Having half an hour conversation with him initially, I was like, ‘okay, I think this guy’s going to give me some information that I haven’t heard before, but I think it’s going to really help me’. I was desperate because I was thinking about retiring and flew over to Charlotte, North Carolina to spend two days with him.

The information that he gave me was something I hadn’t heard before, even though I’d been around sports psychologists and mental skills coach from the age of probably 13. How simply the information was explained to me as well by him was just like there was light bulbs going off everywhere, like, ‘Oh my gosh, how come I didn’t know that?’

After that, I flew home back to Sydney and felt between, ‘Oh, I’ve got this, I can turn this around’ to ‘Oh no, I can’t’. It took a lot of work day by day and moment by moment about understanding of what my thoughts were and controlling them. But within six weeks, the issues that I had disappeared, as got them under control and over the next four years of my playing career, I had some of the best performances of my life.

From that moment of implementing those mental skills, and information, which had a huge impact on my performance, I said to Dr Jacques, ‘Well, I need to get this information out to as many people as possible because this information should be readily available, but it’s not’.

Everywhere that I’ve looked, I haven’t been able to find information in a really simple way to understand in a way that I can apply it to any performance. From that moment, I ended up working with him and he taught me how to teach this information. Now I’m very fortunate to have access to his IP to be able to then put it into my own words and get the information out to as many people as possible.

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Q. You also talk about the fear of facing the short ball coming after the tragic death of Phil Hughes. How did you overcome it?

A. It was just one of the biggest, if not the biggest tragedy in world cricket, seeing one of our mates get killed by a ball coming at him. From there, I started to believe and think there’s no reason why the next ball coming to me couldn’t have the same effect on me and my family’s life.

From that moment, the fear of the short ball came into my mind and game, which as a top order batter means you are sabotaging your own performance because of the new mental environment being created via that fear.

Meeting with Dr Jacques made me understand that I could turn things around via one of the rules of the mental road – rule number two, which is your mind can actively process one thought at a time. By deeply understanding that if I put the right thing into my mind at the right time, then the wrong thing can’t come in.

The wrong thing coming with fear of short ball, as a batter, was if you pre-meditate the short ball, then you’re slow on it anyway. If it’s not a short ball, you’re out of position and exposed, which means there’s a good chance you’ll get out.

By putting the right thing in my mind at the right time as the ball came out, and the word I put for me is aggressive because that’s me ready to react and not have any thought of what’s coming down. By implementing that, I’m tapping into all my instincts, and muscle memory that’s so deeply ingrained in me.

Immediately by understanding that, I was like, ‘Oh, I can do that’. I had to develop that trust in my technique of playing the short ball and worked hard it for six weeks to sort of retrain that. But by putting the right thing into my mind, so the wrong thing couldn’t come in, I never had that fear on my game again.

Q. In those last four years, there was that 117 not out in the IPL 2018 final for the Chennai Super Kings against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Going from zero off ten balls to making a century in an IPL final, what did take for you to do it mentally?

A. It was really a culmination of putting all of those mental skills together. I started learning these skills at the end of 2015 and had a couple of years of really just pulling all that information and learning how to be able to make the most of it. Like, what were the right and wrong thoughts in the lead up to the game? What was the best way to maintain & sustain my mental energy without burning it out before a big game like that?

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Even when I was zero off 10 balls chasing in the second innings, every ball was about staying in the moment, being fully focused on the present and it was about breaking down each ball. After I faced a ball, what happened technically, mentally, where was I at? I just kept doing that.

I was just in the process, staying fully present, working through to bring the best version of me as the ball came out. Even five years ago, being none off 10 balls, there would be much chance of me panicking and going, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to really get on with this and play a rash shot’.

Whereas I was just pulling myself into the ultimate zone that you’re chasing, I knew every step along the way was getting me closer to that ultimate space you’re trying to get into in performance – the zone. So by pulling myself into it, it took a bit of time, about 15 or 20 balls.

Once I got there, then I just stayed there in the moment and that’s when I had a great day in one of the high pressure games. That innings was just a culmination of my skills that I had been training for since I was a kid at the age of 36 and then applying those new mental skills that I’d been integrating into my performances as well.

That really was a perfect storm – by applying that in a pressure game was again a confirmation that these mental skills are so powerful. I wish that I had this information as a teenager because it would have meant that I was able to perform more consistently and significantly reduce the pressure, stress, anxiety and worry that goes with being desperate for getting the best results every single time.

Q. Do you think that if you encountered these mental skills early in your career, it would have helped you a great deal mentally?

A. There’s no question it would have helped a crazy amount, especially from a Test cricket perspective as well. The biggest issue I see in society now and working with a lot of different people is mental fatigue. There’s so much over stimulation that we’ve always got things available to us, whether it’s messages, social media, or notifications, life is incredibly busy and overstimulating.

Plus, our desire to be able to perform every single time and being obsessed with results, with me certainly being one of those. I wanted to be the best I possibly could be and would put so much pressure on myself to perform because of desperation to get the best results possible. I used to overthink situations in the lead up to a big series like an Ashes or a World Cup.

Ahead of match day, I’d just be, ‘Who am I going to be up against? Who am I playing?’. I would have played the game in my mind before it even started. By the time actual game came, I was mentally so tired and fatigued. When you’re mentally fatigued, then your ability to access deeply ingrained skills reduces, and decision-making becomes so sluggish.

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It’s like you are stuck in the mud, whereas when you’re mentally fresh, you’ve got a lot of energy, and decision making is accurate, crisp, and sharp. That time, I had no idea that the concept around your brain is like a muscle. Once I understood this information around conserving and regenerating my mental energy, I made sure to make the most of it.

So I used a few different techniques to be able to conserve my mental energy even when I was in the moment playing the game. Like, I put a song into my head to put my mind on neutral. Different people have different techniques to just do that, whether it’s focusing on breathing, or like Sir Viv Richards used to chew gum. When the ball’s about to come out, they have all the mental energy in reacting to the ball to the best of their ability.

Q. You just mentioned about using music to put your mind on neutral. How did that come about for you to implement it in your performances?

A. Music has always been something that I’ve loved, even as a kid. I learnt playing the guitar in my early 20s and being on tour, especially with Brett Lee, that was a way to chill out as well. I didn’t necessarily do it to chill out, it was more so I had so much downtime on tour and wanted to learn a new skill.

But the thing I realized when I now look back at a lot of my best performances, even before I knew this information, is I had a catchy song in my head that I was just singing along to – whether it was a song I listened to in the lead up to the game or a song that came on while I was batting. It was just in the background there for the whole time.

Glenn McGrath and Michael Clarke always had a song in their head they used. I didn’t fully understand why they used it, but it worked incredibly well for them. It wasn’t until Dr. Jacques explained to me the power of having something that you can move your mind to and put it on neutral.

For me, songs was something that had worked in the past, that it just happened without me consciously putting a song into my head. From that moment, I was like, ‘Well, no matter what, one, if I start to overthink a situation, even in the lead up to the game, jam a song into my head’.

If I was overthinking a situation in any way, shape or form, I put a song into my head, because that means I can trust my gut instincts, intuition, and also not burn my mental energy, so as to access my super highway reactions and be ready to react when the ball comes out.

–IANS

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Euro 2024: Hjulmand stunner cancels out Kane goal as Denmark hold England 1-1

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Frankfurt, June 21 (IANS) Morten Hjulmand scored the equaliser as Denmark came back to hold favourites England to a 1-1 draw in a Group C match of the UEFA Euro 2024 here on Thursday. Hjulmand struck in the 34th minute to cancel out the goal scored by Harry Kane in the 18th minute as Denmark and England played out a tight 1-1 draw in an even contest in Group C. Both goals came in the first half and the two sides made some good attempts in the second session but could not find the back of the net.

With this draw, England moved to four points from two matches while Denmark and Slovenia have two points each from two draws. Serbia have one point from two games.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s shot on target within the very first minute seemed to promise an end-to-end contest, but what soon transpired was an England team controlling possession and scant opportunities for either side.

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The Three Lions eventually upped the tempo, however, and after a good chance for Phil Foden, Harry Kane buried a diverted cross from close range.

After that, Denmark began cranking up the pressure – and they reaped the benefits. Morten Hjulmand chose the perfect moment to score his first international goal, equalising with an exquisite long-range strike into the bottom corner.

Denmark also created the second half’s first chance, with Jonas Wind’s shot being blocked. The Danes enjoyed spells of fluid possession after the restart, dictating the pace of the game, but it was England who went closest to adding to the scoreline, with a Foden shot coming back off a post.

Both coaches made changes in an attempt to eke out victory, and substitute Ollie Watkins – on for Kane – had a chance to find the net swiftly after coming on, only for Kasper Schmeichel to deny him. Andreas Christensen then fired over at the other end, ensuring an absorbing game ended all square.

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–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Suryakumar and Bumrah propel India to a clinical 47-run win over Afghanistan (ld)

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Bridgetown, June 21 (IANS) Top-ranked batter Suryakumar Yadav made an impressive 53 off 28 balls, while in-form Jasprit Bumrah led a relentless bowling show through a stunning haul of 3-7 as India maintained their unbeaten run in the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup with a clinical 47-run win over Afghanistan in their first Super Eight match at the Kensington Oval on Thursday.

With the pitch being damp and slow, Suryakumar proved to be the difference by combining attacking shots with immaculate timing to hit five fours and three sixes at a strike rate of 189. He was also mighty effective with his sweep shots as his 19th T20I fifty put pressure on Afghanistan bowlers and take India to a strong 181/8.

His 60-run stand with Hardik Pandya (32) and a late cameo of 12 from Axar Patel helped India raise the tempo as 56 runs came in the last five overs, despite captain Rashid Khan and left-arm pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi taking three wickets each.

In reply, Bumrah bowled 20 dot balls in his searing spell, while Arshdeep Singh, despite being occasionally wayward, took 3-36 as India bowled out Afghanistan for 134.

With the ball holding on to the pitch, Rohit Sharma was kept quiet by Farooqi despite getting a streaky four. He also survived an LBW appeal off him on review, as replays showed ball pitching outside leg-stump. Farooqi struck in the third over when Rohit tried to take on his off-cutter, but miscued off the toe-end to mid-on.

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Rishabh Pant began attacking from the word go by stylishly flicking Farooqi for four, followed by reverse-sweeping, slog-sweeping (dropped by Naveen-ul-Haq on 11) and driving through cover to take three fours off Mohammad Nabi as the final over of Power-play yielded 13 runs.

But Pant was beaten while trying to reverse-sweep a leg-break delivery off Rashid and was trapped plumb lbw for 12-ball 20, with the review showing it would have hit the stumps. Rashid struck again in his next over by having Virat Kohli loft straight to long-off.

Suryakumar kept India going with his variety of sweeps fetching him three boundaries, even as Rashid trapped Shivam Dube lbw with a quicker leg-break which went past his attempted jab, with the review showing it hit flap of pad first in front of off-stump.

Suryakumar left everyone in awe by moving across and whipping a low full toss from Azmatullah Omarzai for four, followed by driving him through mid-off for another boundary. With Pandya timing his drives for boundaries, Suryakumar proceeded to smack a drive from Omarzai down the ground for six.

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Pandya tore into Noor Ahmad by going inside-out beautifully over extra cover for four, followed by smashing a six straight down the ground. Suryakumar smacked Farooqi high over long-on for six and flicked a four through mid-wicket to get his fifty in 27 balls before the batter holed out to long-off in the 17th over.

Pandya smacked Naveen for a 98-metre six clubbed over the terrace of the stadium, before holing out to deep point off the pacer in the 18th over. India’s plans for a big finish were given another big dent when Ravindra Jadeja uppercut to short third man and become Farooqi’s third scalp. Axar picked his gaps well to take two boundaries off Naveen and take India past 180 in the final over.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz got Afghanistan’s chase off to a flying start by carting Arshdeep for four and six in the opening over. But the big-hitter was foxed by a cutter from Bumrah in trying to hit over cover and gave an outside edge behind to keeper.

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Ibrahim Zadran slashed to Kohli at point, but he dropped a simple catch off Arshdeep’s bowling. But Axar struck as Zadran didn’t get any elevation and hit straight to extra cover. Bumrah came back with an off-cutter which gripped off the pitch and took a leading edge off Hazratullah Zazai’s bat to backward point.

The triple strikes from India meant Afghanistan’s required run rate ballooned, despite Azmatullah Omarzai and Gulbadin Naib hitting five boundaries between themselves till the halfway mark.

But after a drinks break, Kuldeep broke the 44-run stand by having Naib miscue high in the air to the keeper and was followed by Ravindra Jadeja having Omarzai holing out to long-on. From there, the result was a foregone conclusion as Bumrah and Arshdeep ended up with three-fers, while Kuldeep had a two-wicket haul on his T20 World Cup debut in a comfortable win for India.

Brief scores:

India 181/8 in 20 overs (Suryakumar Yadav 53, Hardik Pandya 32; Rashid Khan 3-26, Fazalhaq Farooqi 3-33) beat Afghanistan 134 all out in 20 overs (Azmatullah Omarzai 26; Jasprit Bumrah 3-7, Arshdeep Singh 3-36) by 47 runs

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Bumrah, Arshdeep bag three each as clinical India register 47-run win over Afghanistan

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Bridgetown (Barbados), June 20 (IANS) Fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Arshdeep Singh picked three-wicket hauls each as India maintained their unbeaten run in the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup with a clinical 47-run win over Afghanistan in their first Super Eight match at the Kensington Oval here on Thursday.

With the pitch being damp and slow, Suryakumar Yadav proved to be the difference by hitting a 28-ball 53, laced with five fours and three sixes at a strike-rate of 189, and being mighty effective with his sweep shots to take India to a strong 181/8.

His 60-run stand with Hardik Pandya (32) and a late cameo of 12 from Axar Patel helped India raise the tempo as 56 runs came in the last five overs.

In reply, Bumrah took 3-7, including bowling 20 dot balls, while Arshdeep, despite being occasionally wayward, took 3-36 to bowl out Afghanistan for 134.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz got Afghanistan’s chase off to a flying start by carting Arshdeep for four and six in the opening over. But the big-hitting Gurbaz was foxed by a cutter from Bumrah in looking to hit over cover and gave an outside edge behind to keeper.

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Ibrahim Zadran slashed to Virat Kohli at point, but he dropped a simple catch off Arshdeep’s bowling. But Axar struck quickly as Zadran didn’t get any elevation and hit straight to extra cover. Bumrah came back with an off-cutter which gripped off the pitch and took a leading edge off Hazratullah Zazai’s bat to backward point.

The triple strikes from India meant Afghanistan’s required run rate ballooned, despite Azmatullah Omarzai and Gulbadin Naib hitting five boundaries between themselves till the halfway mark.

But after the drinks break, Kuldeep broke the 44-run stand by having Naib miscue high in the air to the keeper and was followed by Ravindra Jadeja having Omarzai holing out to long-on. From there on, the result was a foregone conclusion as Bumrah and Arshdeep ended up with three-fers, while Kuldeep had a two-wicket haul on his T20 World Cup debut in a comfortable win for India.

Brief scores:

India 181/8 in 20 overs (Suryakumar Yadav 53, Hardik Pandya 32; Rashid Khan 3-26, Fazalhaq Farooqi 3-33) beat Afghanistan 134 all out in 20 overs (Azmatullah Omarzai 26; Jasprit Bumrah 3-7, Arshdeep Singh 3-36) by 47 runs

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–IANS

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Tennis: Former champion Barty to play Wimbledon invitation doubles

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London, June 20 (IANS) Former World No.1 Ashleigh Barty will return to Wimbledon this year in the legends’ invitation doubles draw, partnering fellow Australian Casey Dellacqua. Australian player Barty, who won three Grand Slam singles titles before retiring from tennis, will be reliving her success in doubles by playing in this event. “I can announce the band’s back together, ABCD,” Dellacqua told The AO Show Weekly on Thursday.

Barty, the 2021 Wimbledon champion, retired from professional tennis in March 2022 after winning her third major at the Australian Open. Last July, she gave birth to her first son, Hayden.

Between 2013 and 2017, Barty and Dellacqua won five WTA Tour doubles titles together, as well as reaching four Grand Slam finals — including Wimbledon 2013, where they lost the final to Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai. Dellacqua, 39, retired from the sport in 2018 and currently works as a commentator.

That’s another role Barty will be taking on this year. The 28-year-old will also be joining the BBC’s commentary team during Wimbledon.

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Main draw action at Wimbledon begins on July 1, with the invitation events starting on July 9.

–IANS

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Euro 2024: Gourmet Musiala is serving football delicacies as Germany reach Round of 16 stage

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Berlin (Germany), June 20 (IANS) Jamal Musiala’s culinary preferences seem to entertain the entire country of the 2024 UEFA Euro tournament hosts. Social media channels seem packed with video clips showing the 21-year-old England-bred and Bayern Munich forward enjoying so-called “Maultaschen” (filled pasta cases), a Swabian specialty.

“I just love them and minutes ago had the first. There are more to follow later,” the gifted youngster said only minutes after his team’s 2-0 victory over Hungary in Germany’s second Group A encounter, which secured the team’s last-16 participation.

Despite having spent most of his youth and football education in England with Chelsea (2001-2019), Musiala was born in Stuttgart, the capital of the region called Swabia which seems to have affected his preferences, reports Xinhua.

Tens of thousands of fans give out likes for Germany’s tournament surprise after watching the footballer enjoy his favourite dish. Only football seems to similarly affect the youngsters’ mood as the 30-time capped is causing excitement with his on-pitch performance throughout Europe.

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While English media talk about his transformation from a rookie nicknamed “Bambi” to a terminator, the Daily Mail asks “What poor soul allowed Musiala to play for Germany?” after he was part of the Three Lions under-21 side owning both nationalities. In January 2021 it was on former German coach Joachim Loew to convince the attacker to join team Germany and “outline to me my way in the German team.”

Claiming to have grown out of the state of a start-up “as I have gained physical strength,” the attacker is enjoying the “on-pitch freedom” given by German coach Julian Nagelsmann. “I told him to ignore the pressure and fully focus on his joy playing football as if he was performing in a school backyard,” the 36-year-old said.

Nagelsmann called Musiala “tough to defend” while the youngster in the German shirt is entertaining the crowd with his irresistible dribbling as he also scored twice in the tournament’s first two games.

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“Uff, what is there to say: He is a genius,” German captain and Barcelona midfielder Ilkay Gundogan quoted, calling Musiala’s performance and development “breathtaking.”

While being selected as the “UEFA Player of the Match” in Germany’s curtain raiser against Scotland (5-1), it was on Gundogan to take the crown due to his convincing performance against Hungary (2-0). It might be based on the youth of Musiala, that the Bayern youngster is dominating the headlines on the European continent as international media praise his exceptional talent.

“It’s our goal to take this flow into the next games. As for me, I meanwhile have the confidence to score goals as soon as I get the chance to do so,” Germany’s rising star said.

Being substituted off in the 72nd minute, enthusiastic applause dropped on the forward like a warm summer rain giving proof of him having gained the hearts of the German fans by storm.

–IANS

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