By Anjum Chopra
Commentators often compliment a batsman for a good knock by saying ‘he was in the zone’. It is not a zone that batsmen create physically around themselves but it is a zone in their mind.
Their actions and reactions are more in sync with what they have devised as functioning areas for themselves or patterns while they are batting in the middle. It is a near perfect place which allows you to see, plan and implement what’s ideal to your game.
In the ongoing second Test between India and England at Lord’s, K.L. Rahul seemed in the zone as he constructed his innings to score a century against England. We applauded and complimented the personal score (127 not out) he amassed at the end of Day 1 after England had asked India to bat first in overcast conditions.
The spotlight was going to be on Rahul simply because he was being persisted with ahead of other batsmen at the opening spot. He batted well in the first Test at Trent Bridge and showed glimpses of the old Rahul, the in-form Rahul.
But the test of a Test Match player never ends. He had to deliver at the big stage again and the stage only gets bigger when it is the Home of Cricket — Lord’s.
Rahul played a patient, slow, defensive knock as compared to his partner at the other end, Rohit Sharma. But the moment Rohit got dismissed, Rahul’s confidence came to fore. He had batted himself to that level by playing each ball on its merit. Using his footwork to go right forward towards the ball or right back to time it perfectly. It was heartening to see the grind that Rahul was ready to put in, curbing his instincts to attack the ball at will.
This zone that a batter gets into while perfecting which ball to play and attack and which one to leave on merit is not easily achieved. It requires conscious practice and a lot of mental adjustment. The importance of the innings, the magnitude of the moment and the hunger to succeed are the factors that help players get into such a frame of mind.
The key factor that can help identify if the batsman is in zone is his shot selection. At times, it is easier to attack than defend and on another day it is vice-versa. A player is in the zone if he aptly constructs an innings while keeping the situation and personal form as well as the big stage and opposition in mind.
International cricket can be brutal and a player needs to be relentless in finding ways to succeed consistently. A foot off the pedal or a change of view can lead to a slip-up. Cricket can be unforgiving and people tend to remind you of your failures before offering appreciation.
Performance will always remain key. The zone is a place which allows you to exercise caution and plan your attack as and when you decide to shift gears.