Book review – The Psychology of Cricket: Developing Mental Toughness


Gareth Stevens reviews the brainchild of sports psychologists Doctor Stewart Cotterill and Doctor Jamie Barker, which largely deals with a subject that separates the good from the great.

The Psychology of Cricket: Developing Mental Toughness strives to equip players and coaches alike with the techniques required to improve mental toughness and, hence, maximise their potential.

Developing mental toughness is a topic that will fascinate South Africans in particular, due to the notorious mental breakdowns the Proteas have suffered in bigger tournaments.

The book is the brainchild of sports psychologists Doctor Stewart Cotterill and Doctor Jamie Barker. Each chapter is dedicated to identifying key factors – such as confidence and focus, which contribute to building mental toughness.

Once identified and analysed, techniques are discussed which can be used to improve these highlighted skills. The player who works on and improved these individual factors, it is argued, will consistently develop mental toughness.

Techniques shared are equally beneficial to players and coaches, who can utilise the information in isolation or impart the knowledge to an entire team.

One of the more fascinating discoveries made by the authors was the supposed uncovering of the causes behind choking. This little word has taken the status of profanity in South Africa, but the good news is that the book provides methods in which cricketers can now counter the effects.

Unfortunately, the content of this book does not stray far beyond medical lingo. There are no anecdotes and the only glimpses provided into the minds of players come in the form of quotes, which start each chapter. What is desperately lacking in an empirical study which provides evidence, is that the theories actually bear fruit.

Concluding their findings, the authors acknowledge that developing mental toughness is not a magical concept and there is no quick fix. It is merely commonsense that most people forget to consciously think about.

If you are a scholar of the gentleman's game, who is interested in modern thinking, this book will provide some enjoyable mental stimulation. If, however, you are expecting to instantly become a mentally tough player as a result of skimming through the suggested techniques, it is likely you will be left disappointed.

In the modern world of competitive sport it is uncommon to see athletes that are in vastly superior condition to their rivals. In this day and age every professional cricketer trains effectively, eats correctly and possesses the talent to be successful. As a result, what separates the good from the great is mental resilience.

The Psychology of Cricket: Developing Mental Toughness promised to shed some light onto this debate. Instead, it delivered a string of definitions and many thought-provoking questions, without definitively providing many answers.

<b>Gareth Stevens</b>