This summer (2005) huge crowds in England and Australia have been following the 5 test match series between England and Australia. The sides are evenly matched and have played some of the most exciting cricket seen for many years. Whether you play cricket or not, you will find some great success lessons in this series of matches.
The first success lesson is that you and I must not dwell on our mistakes however humiliating they are. We have to be tough minded and just focus on the next ball to be bowled or the next project in our lives.
Cricket is a team game but there are only 11 players fielding (bowling and catching the ball) and they are spread out on a large field. Any mistakes you make are seen at once by your team mates and the audience. The mistakes of the batting side are also clearly visible as only two people bat at a time.
Kevin Pietersen, the promising England batsman, dropped two catches in the first test when he was fielding but then went on to a play a good batsman's innings. A commentator remarked that he must have a strong mind to get over the disappointment of dropping the catches enough to allow him to bat well
Geraint Jones, the wicket keeper, had also dropped two catches and again a commentator remarked that you can try to put your mistakes at the back of your mind but it is not that easy. The memory keeps recurring. However, Jones batted well in spite of the memory that must have haunted him. Later in the series, he also took some magnificent catches to make up for the ones he had dropped.
Both captains, Michael Vaughan and Ricky Ponting, batted poorly in the first two tests and were heavily criticized in the papers. However, in the third test match both captains batted extraordinarily well. They both showed the fighting spirit to get over the depression they must have felt after the first and second matches and the criticism they were receiving daily.
A second key success lesson is that you must not get distracted from your goal of scoring runs or anything else by mental or physical pain. In ordinary life, many painful things can happen which can demoralise you unless you are determined enough to keep going in spite of the pain. Keep focused on your goals and dreams whatever happens.
Those who have not played cricket may not realise how hard a cricket ball is. It is especially hard and bouncy when it is new. Fast bowlers are usually given the new ball so that they can bounce it high to hit the batsmen in the head, throat, ribs or hands.
Once the batsmen get distracted by the pain in their head or hands, they will be vulnerable to the next ball and will do something silly like knocking up a catch or failing to protect their wicket (the three stumps or sticks protruding from the ground) from getting hit by the ball.
Brett Lee, the Australian fast bowler, was run out when he hesitated before running. He wanted to flap his hand to get rid of the pain. His index finger and then his thumb had been hit by fast balls. Later, however, in another match, he redeemed himself by batting well even though he had been hit hard on the head and the arm!
On the second day of the first test England were bowling at the Australians who were having their second innings (chance to bat).
However, the England bowlers were not harassing the batsmen enough. Boycott, the former great England batsman, commented that the ball should be whistling about the batsmen's ears and hitting their gloves:
"The ball is new and hard. Now is the time to hit the batsmen before the ball gets too soft. Once the batsmen get too comfortable, they will start thinking: 'I fancy scoring a hundred.'"
Even the tailenders or weaker batsmen who bat last have to suffer. The bowlers cannot allow them to stay in too long. Boycott continues:
"Bowlers should hit the tailenders in the ribs or on the hand before they get too comfortable. That's what you have to do as a fast bowler. You have to hurt the opposition tailenders. Tailenders are alright if there is not a likelihood of them getting hurt. They're not too brave."
On Saturday, the third day of the test, the Australian tail enders were batting. Gillespie, one of the tailenders, was hit in the stomach near the belly button. He grimaced in pain. A few balls later he was hit in the groin by a ball from Harmison and doubled over in agony. The ball was travelling at about 90 miles an hour. The crowd roared with laughter. Harmison had been aiming for the throat and the toes and the crown jewels
It can take a good over (6 balls from the same bowler) or two to get focused after being hurt. But Gillespie is a gutsy player and practises hard at his batting. He realizes it is important for a tailender to score runs or at least stay in. He batted on bravely.
The gutsy performance of the Australian tailenders had much to do with the Australian success in the first test match of the Ashes series. They had learned how to overcome sharp physical pain and recover their focus quickly.
We all need to learn to accept the fact that we will suffer mental and physical pain at some point in achieving our goals. The secret is to forget the pain as quickly as possible and just concentrate on doing what we have to do.
Further success lessons came from the third test match. One of them is that sometimes it is better not to listen to the critics whether they are outside or inside your own head.
Australia had won the first test match and then England won the second test on the 7th Aug 2005 a date that will go down in history as the date of one of the greatest cricket matches ever played.
England won the match by 2 runs only - an amazingly close margin. Much of the success was due to the England captain, Michael Vaughan, but Vaughan had not scored enough runs himself in this test or the first one. He could guarantee that the papers would be having a go at him in a big way. His solution was simple. He did not read the papers.
On Thursday, England went in to bat. Michael Vaughan was in third and was under great pressure to perform. This is where his policy of not reading the papers paid off. He scored his first century of the series. The audience were up and out of their seats applauding as he succeeded. He had scored 13 fours (hits to the boundary).
A captain who scores runs can lead by example. It is important that he is in form as actions speak much louder than words. In the end he made a large total of 166 runs with about 20 four's and at least one six (a hit over the boundary).
He told an interviewer that before batting he had talked to the young boy who was the England mascot for the day. The lad had already had three heart by pass operations. This made Vaughan feel less tension as he realised that, at the age of thirty, he had so much to be thankful for and that scoring or not scoring runs was not that important in the whole scheme of things.
He also decided to bat on intuition and not to think too much. He had already done his thinking and his practice. Once he was facing some of the best bowlers in the world, he would not have time to think. His plan worked and he smashed the ball all over the place.
However, in the end Australia held out for a draw. They were saved mainly by the rain which meant that England had less time to get them out than was necessary.
So then: keep going even if you make embarrassing mistakes in full public view. Regain your focus on your goals even if you have been hit by physical or mental pain. Even the great Jim Rohn lost a million dollars after he had signed a form without realising the liabilities involved. He soon regained his focus and the lost money. Refuse to fill your mind with the views of your critics and keep your life in perspective by thinking of those millions of people who are so much worse off than you. Finally,once your thinking has been done, take action wholeheartedly without worrying about the results.