Bancroft’s meditations on stress
Australia wicketkeeper batsman, Cameron Bancroft, has taken a novel approach to handling the stresses and strains of being a professional cricketer.
Under the guidance of Cricket Australia sports psychologist Michael Lloyd, Bancroft has developed an outlook on cricket and life based on mindfulness.
After a sub par County Championship stint with Gloucestershire, Bancroft felt a change in approach was necessary.
Bancroft told cricket.com.au: "The biggest pressure I felt when I was over there [Gloucestershire] was expectation that I put on myself to do really well,
"I knew it was going to be different over there. I knew there were going to be some challenges.
"But I wanted it so badly. I wanted to do so well, it probably consumed me a little bit in my own mind.
"I recognised that. And that's OK; the biggest thing I learnt was that sometimes you need to let go of control to have ultimate control."
You'd be forgiven for thinking Bancroft picked up a Deepak Chopra self-help book at the airport on his way back to Perth, but this enlightened approach is a result of work done with Lloyd.
Lloyd describes the core principles of mindfulness: "[Mindfulness is] a mental skill and discipline involving training your attention to be present focused. It's a conscious, non-judgemental state of self-awareness."
Bancroft chips in: "Being mindful is something you can control in every day of your life. The little things like just when you're sitting down and eating, it's amazing how often you'll be on your phone or reading the newspaper.
"But sometimes being able to just appreciate what you've got, switch off, is a really important skill to have. When your mind is so occupied, so busy and really cluttered, I think you lose that clarity and that ability to have control of yourself.
"(Mindfulness meditation) is something that I can be aware of at any point of the day; being able to sit there, be comfortable, mull over thoughts and let go of things in your own mind is, I think, a really good skill to learn."
Lloyd explains what all this has to do with cricket: "There is a growing body of evidence indicating that regular mindfulness training can result in significant physical, mental health, and performance related benefits,
"A few years ago Cricket Australia partnered with Smiling Mind to develop a cricket-specific mindfulness program, to provide players with a practical tool to help develop these skills."
The sports psychologist gave kudos to Bancroft, saying: "Cameron has always had a keen interest in the mental side of the game,
"He has worked hard on developing these skills, and is obviously experiencing the related benefits.
"Generally speaking, if you have the ability to calm and focus your mind, stay composed, maintain perspective, and attend to what is important to you – either on or off the field – you are going to experience significant benefits."
A number of top cricketer's have either taken a break from the game or expressed feelings of anxiety and stress in the last few years, Bancroft is looking to avoid running into trouble: "It's something I've developed and got better at over time – it develops your ability to have a clear mind, and if you've got a clear mind you can bring that balance into your life,
"It's amazing how little things can impact you, build up on you, and affect all the different components of your life – work related, personal life.
"That's the really big thing I've been able to learn about myself over the last 12 months and I want to keep developing that.
"Everyone goes through hardships – I certainly have done over the past 6-12 months – but I think the skills I've been learning slowly over the last few years, I'm starting to get better at them and it's a really good sign."
His outlook has left him with a philosophical perspective on his time in England: "From a personal point of view I didn't have a fantastic time with the bat, but I learnt so much about my game, being able to play in different conditions and the little adjustments that you need to make,
"It's certainly very different to playing in Australia, and I'm really grateful I went through that experience – I think I'll be a better player for it.
"Whether or not that dream of playing in an Ashes series happens, that's out of my control.
"That's something I'm pretty content with; for me it's just about enjoying playing.
"Being able to play good-quality cricket for nearly 12 months of the year, it's something I'm so grateful to do. I get to wake up every day and play cricket, which is pretty good."
Bancroft is a part of the Australia A side that will face South Africa A in a four day unofficial test this weekend.
He is looking forward to the challenge: "It's a great opportunity for me,
"This is a big stepping stone for me getting closer to the player I want to be.
"South Africa have got some really good players who have played a bit of Test cricket, so it's another chance for me to keep improving, and scoring runs, which is what I love doing."
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