A few posts ago Third Man expatiated on Cricket as a Battle to Control Time. There he sought to show that the cricketer who can slow his own experience of time and speed up that of his opponent gains the advantage and increases his chances of dominating the present.
Time is crucial in another way to cricketing performance. Effective cricketers concentrate their attention on ‘now’ or locate their consciousness two fifths of a second in the future, if you believe Third Man’s theory that batsmen and fielders often imagine the flight of the ball some fractions of a second ahead of time.
There are many claims on a cricketer’s attention from other points in time; times past and times future – which disrupt the attention from things happening now.
So called scoreboard pressure is a claim on a batsman’s attention from time future. Cricketers limitating their shot repertoire as they come up to intervals, the need for a night-watchman to risk a tight run to gain strike are further examples of the future intruding on the now.
Pressure from ‘dot balls’ is a claim on attention from time past. Former failures against bowlers also reach into the ‘now’ from a batsman’s past.
Playing one ball at a time is an often advocated if difficult tactic. In the days, post WWII, when the ‘ideal’ of batting identified a single ‘correct’ shot to every ball, this tactic indeed made sense.
Now that cricketers train to develop a multitude of shots to an identical ball, past events in a series, a match, an innings or even in an over can legitimately influence tactical choices, as time past presses on consciousness and competes with ‘now’ for a cricketer’s attention.
The past and the future distort the sensation of Time and make the choice of which time to inhabit more complex.
Breaks or intervals disrupt a batsman’s ease of chosing well this place in time.
As Time Travellers are only too aware, a failure to concentrate is actually the failure to place oneself and keep oneself in the right place in time.
Yesterday at Perth, Hughes fell immediately after a drinks break and today Pietersen fell immediately after voluntarily breaking his innings (and prejudicing his self mastery of time) to change bats.
As the ICC’s third and fourth ranking nations slug it out, toe to toe, England risk being identified as Flat Track Bullies who can’t hack pace and bounce. All this when the radar is seldom clocking anything above mid-eighties. Some would say, ‘if you can’t play off the back foot, get out of the kitchen’.
Meanwhile Australia look as reliant on terroir as their wine making compatriots.
UPDATE: to see a wonderful example of how a batsman can control his place in time and locate himself at will in the ‘now’ we only had to wait a few days for Trott’s innings at Melbourne in the fourth Test analysed here.