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Monday, May 25, 2020

It’s like 50,000 people watching aren’t there: S Badrinath on MS Dhoni’s mental toughness

Subramaniam Badrinath who has launched a mental conditioning platform explains what makes the Chennai Super Kings skipper so strong mentally, how the lockdown is affecting sportspersons and why he rates R Ashwin highly.

Written by Arun Rawal | Updated: May 9, 2020 10:05:05 am
S Badrinath feels MS Dhoni doesn’t need any mind skills training (Express Archive)

Cricket has come to a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic and it’s a time of anxiety for players who are stranded at home with an uncertain future. Former Indian cricketer Subramaniam Badrinath is trying to help players to stay motivated, increase mental toughness, and reset their goals going forward with a new platform MFore.

In a chat with indianexpress.com, the Tamil Nadu-born former India cricketer talks about the importance of mental conditioning, why MS Dhoni is the toughest cricketer he has played with, how he felt after being snubbed for T20Is and more. Edited excerpts:

During your cricketing career were there any moments when you feel that players in CSK or Tamil Nadu could have done better if they had a mental conditioning coach?

Yes, everyday I see cricketers who actually can do better, including me. The things I know now if I had known 10-12 years back it would have really helped my cricket, brought another dimension, maybe could have performed better.

For me, the epitome of mind skills training is MS Dhoni. Whenever I saw him with his captaincy, the way he approaches the game. I think he is the ultimate, the one guy who does not need any mind skill training. I think people can learn from him because he has maximised his potential into results. Whatever he is doing I think he is totally detached. That’s what helps him as well.

We talk about pressure, media, what people are going to write, we talk about everything. He is not bothered about anything else. He completely believes that whatever he is doing is right. That is the approach everybody needs to have. I would like to say that just do what Dhoni is doing as a cricketer. He is totally detached from everything automatically. When he is going out there, going about the business, it feels as though the 50,000 people watching him are not there. He is alone, he knows clearly in his mind what he needs to do, and he goes about it.

ALSO READ | I feel pressure, I feel scared too, admits MS Dhoni while speaking on mental health

How did you deal with the T20I snub despite top-scoring with 43 on your debut, that earned you a man of the match award?

I started on a high. What I could have done, it’s too late to actually talk about the selection and all that. I feel what I could have done much better with is the expectations…I started thinking about the future. That time I should have just been in the present. 

When you are actually sitting and watching a player just playing on the TV. You just see the player is playing a shot and all that but there are 10,000 different thoughts going on in his mind. People don’t see that. If I had known all that I know now, I could have handled all that much better.

Who, according to you is the most talented and mentally strong player in Tamil Nadu Ranji Team?

In Tamil Nadu, I think it’s R Ashwin. He is phenomenal the way he is. The way he thinks about the game. He is talented, he is blessed with a lot of talent, but he is the one who knows his cricket inside out.

He is the guy who knows his game. What he can do, what he cannot do. He is completely aware of even the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. I think he is completely in control of his game.

If a player comes and tells you that they were having trouble coping with pressure, how would you deal with them?

Like you mentioned he is doing really well (in the nets) then he has the ability. He is not able to transform his ability into performance on the field. So what we will do is we will sit and assess what happens in this mindset. So this is the job of our sports psychologists.

We have created a platform MFore where any cricketer who has or any sportsman who has this kind of anxiety can access us and we will help them out. We will find exactly what is going on in his mind then we will direct him to the right sports psychologist. 

How are you helping the players having problems during the lockdown, and how do you think it will affect them when they get back on the field? 

It is important to make them realise that the whole world is at a stop now, it’s not just you. We use a technique called visualisation, where through our research we have found that even if I am sitting here and I just close my eyes I am thinking of how I played on my Test debut. The mind is so powerful that just by visualising this you can actually do a 10-minute practice session in your mind. You will automatically feel much better.

Another important thing is goal resetting. The players would have come up with major goals for this summer, through this IPL or summer academies. The parents would have had dreams for their kids this summer. Coaches would have had a list they would want to work on with the athletes. Now it’s time to erase all the goals and start afresh because you would have been in good form in the last six months but it doesn’t matter. It is important to reassess your goals and take it from there.

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