Brain fade’ a veiled threat to all performers

Brain Fade - Steve Smith

The recently concluded India-Australia test match at Bengaluru in the first week of March 2017 was a scintillating cricket match, but mired in controversy.

Steve Smith, unhappy with the LBW ruling that went against him, looked toward the dressing room seeking to get some help on whether to go for a review or not.

This incident turned the match on its head for other reasons. The Aussie captain was accused of cheating, as it was against the rules to look for counsel. Later, at a press meet, he admitted his guilt and said he was under a moment of brain fade.

After Virat Kohli got out LBW, by not offering a shot – through misjudgment of the line and length of the ball, Mark Waugh said this was happening to Kohli because of brain fade.

The new coinage, brain fade, seems to have gained currency after the match.

‘Trevor your underarm stinks’.

Let me take you down memory lane to the year 1981. On February 1st, Australia were playing New Zealand in a one day Benson and Hedges World series match at the MCG.

Here is a glimpse of the video.

The chase came down to the last over and last ball with New Zealand requiring seven runs to win with Brian McKechnie at the crease.  The Aussie captain Greg Chappell instructed his bowler Trevor Chappell [his younger brother] to bowl underarm, which the bowler promptly did, preventing the Kiwis from scoring six runs that would have turned the match into a tie.

The Aussies won the day but drew a lot of flak for not playing within the spirit of the game. Though at that time bowling underarm was a legal delivery [later abolished by the ICC], it was unfair and contrary to the tradition the game is known for.

The reason Greg Chappell attributed to his infamous decision was that – he was too exhausted, frustrated, stressed and under pressure.

Brain fade??   What is that!!!?

The lexicons describe it as a temporary state of inability to concentrate or think clearly or simply get confused and make a poor decision.

Psychologically speaking, I wouldn’t compare it with the more severe condition known as choking, brain freeze, falling apart under pressure or mental meltdown, where the brain goes blank completely and the person seems lost – unable to know what is happening. However, in both the instances the primary reason for the effect is- Pressure.

The cerebral cortex in the brain is the place where decisions are made, which is why it is referred to as the thinker of the brain. It is the seat of intelligence, imagination, analysis, planning and judgment. In short- it is the seat of mental activity.

When everything seems to be normal, the cerebral cortex will take the correct decision by analyzing and judging the situation based on past experiences, perception and knowledge.

But when we are under intense pressure and are threatened, the usual process is bypassed and an important part in the brain – the amygdala springs into action by initializing the fight or fight response.

It is like an emergency alarm going off, triggering an SOS or distress call for help. It will see that the primary objective of the human being is taken care of – that is to oversee the threat. That is why some of the reactions can happen without even thinking. The primary emotion below this is fear – the fear of loss.

Emotion has a thinking mind of its own and sometimes when threatened can act independently of the cognitive thinking mind, seemingly illogical.

That Smith and Greg Chappell were under pressure is true

Pressure is what could have forced Greg Chappell to make an instinctive decision to instruct his brother to bowl underarm to save the threat of loss [defeat].

He later admitted he was frustrated, exhausted, pressurized- the whole thing can be called as Distress or simply, stress.

In the Bengaluru test, Steve Smith’s presence at the wicket was crucial to lead Australia to victory and avert defeat. When he was adjudged LBW, he might have gone into a brain fade sensing defeat and reacted without thinking.

Emotional intelligence is the key to handle such pressure related situations.

( M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click at

What Mental Mockery Can Do To You?

KL Rahul( Cricket Country)
KL Rahul in action against Australia in Dharamsala test.

( picture from

On 26/3/17 the second day of the fourth test match between India and Australia at Dharamsala: Post lunch session- Opener K.L.Rahul who played with a lots of patience and responsibility since play began in the morning was batting on 60 and facing up to Pat Cummins, who was bowling a spell that was hostile, intimidating and fast with speeds of over 145. In that over after every ball, Pat Cummins muttered something to Rahul: the first time Rahul ignored it: the second time he stared back and nodded his head in dissent. The next ball was bounced: Rahul instead of allowing the ball to go past him decided to slog it over mid-on but ended up giving a simple catch to mid-off. Rahul even in his wildest dreams would not play such a rash shot. All the good work was undone with one shot. It was a simple case of rush of blood, lapse of concentration, and momentary brain fade. What led to this? Obviously, it was Pat Cummins mental mockery. In the end it was Pat who had the last laugh and Rahul was forced to leave dejected and defeated. Pat forced Rahul in to mental disintegration coaxing him to play a reckless shot. In fact, Rahul tried to give-it- back- to- Pat Cummins by playing an aggressive shot- which was the wrong thing to do.

A sporting contest normally is an execution of different skills to get the better of your opponents to gain supremacy over the other. But, when things are not going their way: it has been a customary practice with the players to play mental games to regain control of the proceedings. In cricket, players indulge in verbal bashing commonly known as sledging– especially on the batsman in order to irritate, provoke and intimidate. The result is that the batsman loses concentration- internally, by his own frustrating & irritating thoughts and externally, by all the drama that is going on around him.

Mind games are not restricted to cricket alone: we have seen it happen in Tennis, where players like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were infamous for using negative tactics to win matches. Whenever the opponent was holding the upper hand they held up matches-by picking up fights with spectators, protesting against linesman, referee or officials. In the melee the hapless opponents waiting for the game to restart would get irritated and frustrated and by the time the game started they would have lost their concentration and rhythm. Ultimately, fortunes would change and they would end up losing the match. Time wasting, irritating habits, verbal abuse, negative body language are also some of the mind games players’ play to fox their opponents in to submission. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were not two batsmen who let sledging get in to their mind nor did they react negatively to the abettors with all the drama happening around them.

How to deal with mental mockery?  

  1. The best thing would be to ignore and look elsewhere.
  2. Do not look directly in to the eyes of the person engaged in sledging.
  3. When sledging is happening around you, focus on something different like the pitch, the stumps, and the greenery of the turf around you. If you are playing a game like tennis- look around to spot something of a particular color like green, blue, white or yellow OR look at the strings of your racquet
  4. Take it with a smile and treat it just as another banter- with the guys trying to break your mind with their antics. The more you take it seriously the more stressed you are going to be. Change your thoughts to positive and focus on what is important at that point of time. Try to maintain your composure even under severe provocation.
  5. Hum your favorite tune or focus on your breathing to take away your mind from all the distractions.
  6. Mental preparedness using the above mantras is the key to handle mental mockery. You know you’ll be sledged – be prepared for it.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Why sportspersons need a sports psychologist early?

Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios, Australian Tennis Player -Image from The Sydney Morning Herald

The life of a sports person is a long hard drawn battle with the inner self. Left to itself the inner self is a competent master capable of delivering lethal blows that would pulverize the enemy in to submission, but when doubted, this master would be reduced to a humble slave to its pseudo master. By referring it to as the pseudo master, I am talking about our conscious thinking mind and the all pervading real master-as the inner self, that which has an infinite capacity beyond human imagination. More often the human being is a victim of the idiosyncrasies of the thinking mind: the pseudo master who jeopardizes the maximization of  learned potential.

This is what most performers go through, especially so with sports persons- with all their innate abilities, effort, sacrifice, dedication and discipline, the ultimate result is not in line with their dreams, desires and expectations. There is something wrong! Ideally your best performance can be had when you are not thinking and you let your inner self [the subconscious] to do the rest. But is this possible in this world of intense competition, professional goals and big dreams?

The athlete is a victim of his own thoughts that would lead to poor self belief, lack of concentration, performance anxiety, pressure, stress and muscular tension. And it has mostly to do with the realm of the unknown and events that are yet to unfold- that lurking fear beneath – the fear of loss.

Even otherwise, the sports person has issues not related to his game [family, career, finances, relationships, injuries etc] that would heckle him constantly. The life of a professional athlete is a roller coaster ride, with highs and lows- threatened by uncertainty and anxiety- facing lots of pressure and expectations from outside and within.

It is sometimes too much for the individual to absorb all the pressure, however strong he appears to be. Remember, the greatest test for a person is when he is challenged by adversity and setbacks. This is when he looks around seeking professional help and it is then the sports psychologist steps in to perform the role of a friend, guide, motivator, counselor, therapist and a mind trainer.

Besides lending emotional support to the individual in various ways, the psychologist teaches the athlete techniques for enhancing performance-like assisting him to develop positive mindset, to be in the present, focusing on the process, and allowing things to happen. The athlete is also taught with breathing techniques, emotional regulation, handling pressure, goal setting, visualizing a positive outcome and mental toughness.

Recently British Tennis player Laura Robson announced that she is working with a sports psychologist Richard Hampson to help revive her injury prone career.

Formula one racing champion Nico Rosberg recently disclosed that he had worked with a sports psychologist before winning his first ever world championship racing title. Rosberg has said hiring a sports psychologist was one of the key factors for him claiming the world championship.

Nick Kyrgios, the rising Tennis star, has been found guilty of uncontrolled emotions and bad temperament on a few occasions and has now agreed to work with a sports psychologist to overcome these behaviors.

For years sports psychologists have worked with teams and individuals ranging from recreational, amateur, professional and Olympic athletes- helping them to enhance their performance and lending them emotional support.

Sports psychology and psychological skills training is an important cog in the performance wheel that deserves its rightful place.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

You can also follow at








Why are Indian Batsmen crumbling against spin?

Nathan Lyon

Photo : cricketnews18

India traditionally has produced world class spinners in cricket. The most logical reason for this is the fact that the conditions and the pitches in India do not encourage fast bowling as compared to England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies or New Zealand: this has encouraged more and more Indians to take to bowling spin.

In addition, physical requirements to become genuine fast bowlers do not match well with an average Indian physique, though there are some exceptions.

Starting with the likes of Ghulam Ahmed, Lala Amarnath, Bapu Nadkarni, Vinoo Mankad and Subhash Gupte to the present generation comprising Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jayanth Yadav and Amit Mishra, India has produced quality spinners.

Many spinners of world fame have come and gone in between. India’s coach, leg spinner, Anil Kumble is the highest wicket taker for India in test cricket. Spin has been India’s forte and for too long we have depended on spin to win matches for us: and the tweaker’s have not let us down. Our emphasis on spin has been so much that there were occasions when a spinner has opened the bowling or came on to bowl in the 3 or 4th over of a test match. If Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft were a feared quartet, the quartet of Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna and Venkat was a threat of a different kind.

The breeding ground for India’s spinners has been domestic cricket. While the spinners grew from strength to strength the Indian batsmen also became adept at playing spin bowling with the kind of exposure they got day in and day out. Across generations in test cricket, spinners from other test playing nations have not posed any serious threat to Indian batsmen barring the likes of Shane Warne, Dereck Underwood, Saqlain Mustaq or a Muthaiah Muralidharan- their nemesis has always been the fast bowlers in overseas conditions. But, fast bowlers from teams visiting India also, have not posed a serious threat because of the placidity of wickets and unfavorable conditions in the sub-continent and also, this makes the Indian team a formidable opponent in their own backyard. It was so till recently, but of late the Indian batsmen not in the same comfort zone against some quality spin bowling by the visiting teams? 

It all began during the England team’s tour to India during the later part of 2012. It was a four test series that was won by England 2-1 with one of the test matches ending in a tame draw. Graeme Swann [20 wickets] and Monty Panesar [15 wickets] wrecked havoc on the Indian batsmen. Now, in the ongoing series between India and Australia another off spinner- leg arm leg spinner combination in Nathan Lyon and Steve O Keefe appear to do the same. The first test has already gone in Australia’s favour: with the spin duo sharing 17 wickets between them. In the first innings of the ongoing test match that began at Bengaluru on the 5 March 2017 Wrecker-in-chief Nathan Lyon has taken 8 wicket for 50, ably supported by Steve O Keefe who accounted for one: resulted in another dramatic Indian batting collapse-to be dismissed for a paltry total of 189. It appears India is staring at another defeat at the hands of the Steve Smith’s side, so-called underdogs. What ails the Indian batsmen against good spinners? Let’s find out.

  1. With the advent of the 50 overs and the T-20 game the technique against spinners has changed over the years with the emphasis more on the aggressive slogging game. In the longer format the spinners get more time to settle in to a groove and provide more opportunities to add variation to their bowling. The modern day batsmen fail in their ability to be patient and play the waiting game in the longer format against top class spinners- this has been their undoing.
  2. With the amount of International cricket that’s being played these days the Indian batsmen hardly get any opportunity to play against their own spinners in domestic cricket. And they really don’t get tested by the spinners of the opposition teams. When will a Rahul or Karun Nair get to play Ashwin in the longer format? This is where they are mainly losing out. Whereas earlier when there was not too much International cricket, the batsmen had enough time to play domestic cricket thereby honing their skills against the best spinners in business.
  3. The pitches these days are doctored to play dead in order to make it a batsman’s paradise, thereby denting the chances of the spinners to show case their skills. Test match wickets earlier were never used to be covered; the overnight rain or dampness on the wicket was a nightmare for the batsmen with the ball in the hands of bowlers like Underwood or Venkatraghavan. Certain wickets stood by their reputation that the ball would turn prodigiously by the third day, but today things are not the same. Batsmen like Gavaskar, Viswanath and Vengsarkar polished their skills playing on tracks like those mentioned earlier. When faced with wickets like the one prepared at Pune the modern day batsman is found wanting.
  4. Commercialization of the game to attract more spectators to the stadia or more TV viewers by making the game a batsman’s game has proved to be a boon for sponsorships but a bane for the art of spin bowling. BCCI is only interested in attracting sponsors like Star and Sony but are doing very little for the cause of the dying art known as spin bowling.
  5. Physiologically and psychologically speaking too much cricket means very little time for family life, rest& recovery. This over dose will slowly lead to staleness, lack of urge, keenness and alertness of the mind, fatigue in the body with a lack of freshness. This may be one of the reasons for India faring poorly against the Aussies after the recent series against New Zealand, England and one off Test against Bangladesh. The fixtures committee of the BCCI has to take blame for the tightly packed schedule.

The remedy to this malady is to produce more spinner friendly pitches helping the spinners to survive and the batsmen to thrive. Even domestic cricket is played on dead docile pitches these days that turn out be boring and one sided in favour of the batsmen. The right balance has to be restored lest the game will die a slow death. There should be a system in place to see that Indian cricketers take part in domestic cricket for a certain mandatory period.