I am amazed at the instincts the animal kingdom has developed over the generations in order to survive. When millions of turtles hatch they are driven by intuition to make way hurriedly to the water to escape predators. Similarly on the plains of Africa millions of Wildebeests, Zebra mothers give birth to their calves at almost the same time- which increases the chances of their survival: since the predators cannot eat all the new born calves. These new born calves know how and from where they have to suckle, the moment they are born. There are many such examples of how animals have evolved in order to survive for self-preservation.
All living organisms have the basic instincts by which they satisfy their hunger, thirst, need to sleep and the urge to procreate. Animals including the most highly evolved human race have this basic instinct to survive and preserve, when their life is threatened: so, they either run away from the threat or fight the threat/challenge. This phenomenon is called as flight or fight response.
We are living in a competitive world and it is imperative that every human perform to the maximum in his own sphere of activity and it is needed by the individual to go for the kill to turn the result in his/her favour. While some run away from threat others go for the kill in order to avoid failure: this is what is called as killer instinct.
Killer instinct is very common in sports to the extent that we see players take some bold and adventurous decisions to win points and games. These decisions are seen as risky and illogical, but this is what the daring athletes do to spring a surprise on the opponent to overpower him/her.
Instinct is the tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimulus without any reason. Instinct is also sometimes known as intuition/ sixth sense / gut feeling. Athletes have this innate ability to take certain decisions during crucial moments of a game that may defy logic but were very effective to the outcome.
Killer instinct can be seen as an ability to find an opening or chink in the opponent’s game to go ruthlessly after the opportunity. In a long rally the one who finds the opening, takes the initiative and attacks usually wins the point.
Athletes who possess the killer instinct are usually ambitious, committed and motivated – with a drive to come on top and emerge victorious. They hate to lose and want to win every time they compete.
The quality of killer instinct has been seen in many world class athletes in many sports. But the highest quality of killer instinct I have seen is from Roger Federer who is ruthless and brutal – in his own quiet manner, showing no mercy even against the weakest of opponents. Tennis stars of the opposite kind were John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors who were aggressive, vicious and instinctive killers on the tennis court. They hated to lose and would do anything to win: from holding up matches to distracting the opponents by their dubious ways.
Chuck Bednarik, a former American football player has said- you’ve to go to play with that killer instinct man. You have to hate that guy across from you, then after the game is over tell him what a nice guy he is: shake his hands, especially if you win.’
Chris Evert, a champion women’s tennis player once said- Now that I am losing some, I can see how tough I was – the killer instinct, the single mindedness, playing like a machine. Boy! That’s what made me a champion’
On the contrary, I have seen players lose from winning positions lacking the killer instinct to finish off games and win matches.
I bring to you certain instances from the game of cricket were certain instinctive actions by certain players brought about historical results:-
- India played Pakistan in the finals of the T-20 WC in South Africa in 2007: Pakistan chasing an Indian total of 158were 145/9 after 19 overs. To everyone’s surprise MS Dhoni asked Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over and soon Pakistan were all out for a total of 153 giving India a victory.
- In the Nidahas trophy held in Bangladesh recently Dinesh Karthik’s 8 ball cameo helped India win. India needed 5 runs of the last ball and DK guided by his intuition instinctively hit the last ball over extra cover for six- any other batsman would have tried to heave the ball over long on or long off and missed
- In a 50 over game versus India at Sharjah in 1985, Pakistan were required to score six runs of the last ball of a Chetan Sharma delivery and Javed Miandad their star batsman, as if to avoid an agonizing defeat against India, scored a six to give Pakistan victory.