Cricket cannot be a main sport in the US, says Shane Watson

A lot of good cricketers will come out of the US, says Watson

1407434457 Shane Watson | Getty Images

Interview/ Shane Watson, World Cup-winning Australian all-rounder

With his new book The Winner’s Mindset, former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson wants to share with young cricketers the importance of developing your mind along with your body. He goes deep into the subject, taking readers along in a journey to understand how the mind of a professional cricketer works. In an interview, the World Cup-winner talks about training your brain, the mindsets of M.S. Dhoni and Virat Kohli, and which teams he thinks are favourites to win the T20 World Cup. Excerpts:

Everyone around the world of cricket knows there is such a huge potential for growth in the US market. Within 10 years or so, I believe a lot of good cricketers will come out of the US.

Q/ Many former cricketers have written books, and some of them tend to be about how great they were. But with your book, it seems like you have a strong message for young cricketers.

A/ I never thought that I would write an autobiography or something talking about my career. I always wanted to... write this book, which is an education around how to be able to get the very best out of yourself from understanding the mental side of you as a human being. [And] to be able to then just access all the skills that you work so tirelessly for, when you really need to perform.

Q/ You have great clarity of thought in your writing. For instance, you mention the A and B factors; A being the controllables and B being the uncontrollables.

A/ So the performance equation is: A times B equals results. The A in the equation are the things that you are in control of. These are the skills that you have, your fitness, your mental energy stores, your health. It is also how committed you are right there and then, and what your preparation is like. The B factors are not in your control. From a cricket perspective, it is like getting a bad or good umpiring decision. You are batting and someone drops a really easy catch or someone takes an amazing catch. So to the B factors, there is a positive and negative side.

It was an epiphany because I always believed that A equals results. If I worked hard enough, if I developed my skills enough, then that should guarantee me results. [But] if we cannot control the Bs, we cannot control results. But we are so obsessed about results because obviously society [revolves] around results.

Q/ You also write about the importance of having a captain who inspires trust and confidence. You played under M.S. Dhoni and Virat Kohli in the IPL. What is their mindset like?

A/ M.S. Dhoni is very much as everyone sees him on the field. Cool, calm and collected. He is very much process-driven. He just knows these mental skills intuitively. He has developed them by just assessing the world around him from a young age. M.S. Dhoni’s skill is his awareness of the world around him and his ability to be able to just pick up the right thing.

With Virat Kohli, the thing I just love the most is his insatiable appetite to be engaged in every moment of every game. Majority of cricketers will be on for a few games in a row or maybe a season. But to be able to maintain that energy for a career like Virat has, it is superhuman. And that is what he expects of everyone else as well. The challenge is when he is around people who just do not have those superhuman skills.

gallery-image The favourites: West Indies, India and Australia are the teams Watson thinks will do well in the World Cup | AP, AFP
gallery-image The favourites: West Indies, India and Australia are the teams Watson thinks will do well in the World Cup | AP, AFP
gallery-image The favourites: West Indies, India and Australia are the teams Watson thinks will do well in the World Cup | AP, AFP

Q/ You write about the brain being a muscle and having only a limited amount of energy every day. Could you elaborate?

A/ I learnt this after I retired from Test Cricket. This concept is around understanding that your brain is like a muscle. So, you have only got a certain amount of mental energy every single day. As soon as you burn through that, then your ability to make decisions is significantly reduced. It is like your decision-making is stuck in the mud. And that is probably the biggest issue that I see with cricketers now.... In the past, a majority of people were shocking at managing it. They just allowed themselves to overthink and worry. And then when they actually need all their mental energy, when they need to perform, their energy stores are super low. And then their decision-making is slow and not accurate.

Q/ Moving on to the T20 World Cup, how do you see this conservative nature in team selection, especially not including the likes of Jake Fraser-McGurk and Abhishek Sharma in the squads?

A/ It is a tough one for both Australia and India. Knowing that they have super experienced players for whom it is most probably going to be their last ICC tournament. Someone like Dave Warner for Australia. This is going to be his last ICC event and last tournament for Australia. And once that tournament is done, then Jake Fraser-McGurk will hopefully play for Australia for the next 10 or 15 years. And I see the same situation with someone like Abhishek Sharma. For example, you have Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, who have been incredible for India. But this is most probably going to be one of their last tournaments for India in ICC events. Then, after this T20 World Cup, they might just move on to this new generation.

Q/ Could this World Cup be an inflection point in the growth of cricket or do you think those markets, especially the US, are still insulated?

A/ Just through my experience in coaching in Major League Cricket last season, there is a huge south Indian population in the US. And there is a big undercurrent of cricket in the US. The chance of cricket becoming one of the main sports in the US, I do not think that is possible. The main sports in the US have been a fabric of society for the past 100 years or so. Whether it is baseball, NFL (National Football League) or basketball. But because of the expat community and the South Asian communities that are in and around the US, there is an undercurrent and it will continue to grow the more opportunity there is. [With] more and more cricket that is available, there is going to be more facilities. That is why everyone around the world of cricket knows there is such a huge potential for growth in the US market. Within 10 years or so, I believe a lot of good cricketers will come out of the US.

Q/ Having seen all the squads, do you see any team popping out?

A/ I would never go against Australia. Somehow they just find a way to galvanise together and get across the line. And that happened in the last (ODI) World Cup. They certainly would be the favourites, even in the type of conditions that they are most probably going to get in the Caribbean and the US. India, of course, are always going to be so (favourites) because they have such a ridiculous depth of talent. The other team that should really have a great tournament is the West Indies. Their white-ball cricket has not been great in the past couple of years, but with Andre Russell coming back and seeing Nicholas Pooran in form and Shimron Hetmyer, they have some serious firepower. So, there is no reason why them at home should not be really one of the standouts.