Author – Vedika Jogani & Ryan Miller
A recent graduate from Ithaca College with a Master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science, specializing in Mental Performance, Vedika Jogani is OMP’s Product and Content Manager. During her studies, Vedika worked closely with Ithaca’s Men’s and Women’s Tennis Teams and Women’s Volleyball Team as their Mental Performance Consultant. Vedika is currently completing her Certified Mental Performance Consultant Certification.
Ryan Miller is an award-winning Journalist, Broadcaster and Photographer, and OMP’s Head of Content.
It’s the bottom of the 9th inning. You’re on the road and it’s a playoff game. The series is tied. Your team is trailing by three. Bases are loaded. You’re at the plate and you’re already 0-2 and you’ve struck out at all of your at-bats so far. Add to this you can’t use your legs as you’re just run a half marathon. You hit a bomb and win the game.
Imagine you’re at the FIFA World Cup. Your team is trailing by two goals. Due to sending offs and injuries you’re down to nine players on the pitch, and you’re so fatigued your legs are seizing up. There’s just 90 seconds on the clock. Somehow you score a hatrick.
Those are improbable feats; some may say impossible.
Kirk Gibson’s walk off home run in game one of the 1988 World Series is probably the closest, but he was pinch hitting. From a soccer perspective Lucas Moura’s Champion’s League Hatrick in the 2021 Semi-Final springs to mind, but his team was still at full strength. What Gibson and Moura did had been done before.
What Australian Glenn Maxwell did on Tuesday night at the Cricket World Cup in India beggars’ belief. His innings was the first of its kind.
He single-handedly won his team the game. He scored 68.8 per cent of his team’s total.
He did all this while being barely able to stand, let alone walk, due to debilitating cramps in both legs and a back spasm.
When he started his innings, Australia stood just a six per cent chance of winning.
While his 201 not out was a sensational display of physical skill, it was a stunning display of resilience, concentration and determination, and perhaps the best example of being in a flow state from an athlete.
What made Maxwell’s innings truly exceptional was not just the staggering number of runs he scored but the incredible resilience and unwavering focus he displayed throughout.
Despite battling debilitating cramps that at one stage had him on the ground spasming as his muscles filled with lactic acid, he continued to stand and deliver physically.
His ability stare down insurmountable odds and physical limitations is a shining example of resilience in sport. No matter how many times he got knocked down, he continued to get up.
It was clear during his performance – and Maxwell alluded to it in a post-performance interview – that he had a plan and a goal to stick to.
Having a clear goal, sense of purpose, or a “why” allows athletes to draw upon it as inspiration, motivating them to continue even if their body is telling them to stop.
Using What Resouces He Had
Cricket is a technical game, especially batting. Like Golf, Baseball and Hockey, batting in Cricket requires the full use of the body. Feet moving towards the ball, shoulders swinging through, wrists and hands turning the bat to ensure its middle meets the ball.
Maxwell could not use his feet. He could barely bend his back.
So, he stood tall and used one of the resources that he still had – the power of his wrists. He also fell back on what he had practiced in training.
“I’ve done it before. When I get into a really nice rythm I feel like I don’t need to use a lot of foot and body movement,” he said after.
“You do no-foot drills working on your hand speed, but I guess I was just trying to find a ball I could hit for a boundary knowing I wasn’t going to be running ones and twos.”
This is a key mental skill when under pressure or facing adversity – acknowledging the plight you find yourself in and coming up with solutions to the problems you face, rather than just giving up. What resources do you still have that can help you perform?
Controlling the Game
Throughout his innings Maxwell was never rushed or panicked. This is because he took control of the game. Cricket is a combination of a closed and open skilled sport.
Open skilled sports are performed in a dynamic and changing environment, while closed skills take place in a predictable and static environment.
While Maxwell could never predict or control what his opponents were going to do to try and get him out, he could control the flow of the game.
Instead of rushing to face each ball, he took time to free his mind, allowing his attentional focus to drift, before settling himself to concentrate at the task at hand. Controlling the flow of the game not only gave him mental breaks but also allowed him physical breaks too – giving his body valuable moments of rest.
Being able to find moments to let your mind wander during a performance is key – you cannot possible concentrate every second of every performance. Humans are hardwired to be distracted, so it is better for athletes to find moments within their performance when they can be distracted rather than getting distracted when they need to be focused.
Flow State & The Power of Belief
In his post-match interview, Maxwell revealed the secret behind his extraordinary performance – simplicity.
“I wasn’t overthinking the situation, I just knew that if I got a ball I could hit, I’d try to hit it,” he said.
He trusted his experience and instincts, allowing the rhythm of the game to take over. This mental state, often referred to as ‘flow,’ transformed his every move into poetry in motion. Every boundary, every six, and every calculated risk seemed effortless, a testament to his mastery of the game.
What is also notable in this quote is Maxwell’s state of mind during the innings. At no point did he doubt his own ability. He knew he had the ability to score runs regardless of the situation. The power of self-belief and having confidence in your abilities is a key skill in being able to perform in not just pressure situations but all situations. If you know you can and believe that you can, you can.
Learn more about getting into a flow state here.
Joys of the Game
What truly set Maxwell’s innings apart was his ability to find joy in the midst of physical turmoil. He described the experience as ‘great fun,’ emphasizing the camaraderie he shared with his teammate Patty Cummins. Their partnership wasn’t just a display of exceptional cricketing skills; it was a celebration of the sport, a reminder that amidst the fierce competition, there’s room for camaraderie and genuine enjoyment.
This innings will echo through cricketing history as more than just a remarkable achievement; it will be remembered as a lesson in resilience, determination, and the sheer love for the game. Maxwell’s audacious spirit and unyielding confidence didn’t just win a match; they won the hearts of cricket enthusiasts worldwide.