Friday, August 12, 2011

Playing Within Your Reach - For Best Results

It is when we step back and do things with a sense of control that we give our best. This is not the usual blustery, action-packed, go hard at work (or anything else) attitude. This is a more controlled, within-my-reach kind of an attitude where you start off with what you have, keep the basics tight, and slowly grow from there. It is easier to hit the rhythm one wants with this approach and it is easier to try small variations. Normally the end results are much better. The kinds that always get an applause (and you wonder why).

But in most situations, especially the big situations, we are so tense that we overreach. In overreaching one loses balance, one becomes too tense, too rigid and tight, and one finds it hard to find the rhythm. This is exactly what one does not need to handle the big match, or the big occasion. What one needs is a relaxed state of mind, an establishment of the basics well, a good start from where one can build. Just play within your capabilities.

Nothing explains this better than cricket. In slip fielding specially, one must allow the ball to come to you. One must only receive the ball. This is easy to do when one is relaxed. But the moment one is tense, wants to make a difference and grab the big opportunity, one finds the ball bouncing off. Perfect intentions, but no good. Because no slip fielder has ever caught a catch by grabbing at it!

Similarly with bowling, one cannot give their best by running in hard and off balance, and bowling hard - one is at his best when one is running in smoothly, in a balanced fashion, getting the action through smoothly, seeing and directing the ball to the area one wants to and letting it do the rest. All best spells come this way, when one is within oneself. A Michael Holding, a Kapil Dev, an Andy Roberts, in their best years show what it is to be relaxed, to do within their capabilities. Watch any great spell and you know what I am talking about.

Same goes for batting - the best batsmen never overreach, or try to hit the ball too hard. The secret of timing is in allowing the ball to come to you, on to the bat. You handle the ball in your area of control. The moment you try to hit hard, you lose balance, you lose timing, you miss the ball. In trying to impress, you fail. I believe golf is the same way, it is about the swing, not about hitting it hard. Or of anything else, I feel. Including life. One must allow it to come instead of going wildly and hard at it.

Even when writing a book, or attempting to write a story or novel, one freezes at the beginning. One thinks that this should be my masterpiece and in that frozen state of mind one loses sight of the basics, from which the masterpiece can be built. One's own experiences, the little thoughts and feelings that make one's unique perspective that add depth and meaning to the story get lost in the creation of the masterpiece if we go hard at it. It is always better to start with the simple stuff - the place that we know best - that which is within our reach. And then the idea, the story has space to expand, like a seed. We can slowly nurture it, allow it to grow instead of forcing it to grow in some spectacular manner.

The key is not to always focus on the spectacular start - book, batting, catching, bowling, golf, life. The key lies in knowing the core of what you have set out to do. In building the book, one must know the core, and the rest flows easily. Beginnings can always be made more spectacular by opening the story up at the point one feels best. But if one wants to start spectacularly, without having much body or core to expand on later, one mostly paints oneself into a corner that one cannot get out of. The book loses steam, the movie loses its plot, the cricketer looks good in times when there is no pressure but when the big match comes, he fails. One cannot expect the peach tree to give anything else but peaches - not apples, oranges (as the wise Master Oogway says in Kung Fu Panda, or something like that). One must, to quote Oogway again 'lose the illusion of control'.

One may wonder how a Sehwag succeeds when all he does is be spectacular. He succeeds because he has figured out the core of his batting, his mind, the ball and the bat. In that space he stays true to himself, in the moment, and backs himself and his theory in spite of all the masters telling him otherwise. And that is what makes him spectacular, his clarity and his conviction in his basics. Just as Dravid is so sure of his basics, his methods.

If anything, the champion's mindset is about stepping back a bit and not trying too hard. It is about doing the things within one's control and doing those well and in a way that makes sense to them. It is about being relaxed, about starting at 80% or a place one is feeling good at, at then gradually building from there. The best innings are built that way. It is a wonderful feeling then to see how easy it all looks, to make things happen the way you want to, to be in control. To control, one must let go of the need to control the outside. One must show the control within. That is the way of the champion. The way to do the spectacular stuff that each one is capable of.

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