Cricket is beginning to absorb and understand the amount of data now available in relation to the performance of players across matches and training that is a given in other sports. Workload volumes, loading, effort running are just a few of the measurement aspects that have vast sub categories for the analysts to pore over when advising the coaching staff in football of various types (AFL, NFL, EPL et al).
A tremendous insight by Alex Bowden has been published on CricInfo that questions how much does overtraining have to do with loss of form. Based around an international cricketer being exposed to several non-training stresses that could affect on-field performance and that managing physical workload is only half the puzzle.
The article references Dr Richard Winsley from the University of Exeter who specialises in overtraining, described as “a condition where athletes see a drop-off in performance lasting a prolonged period.” The full article can be found here.
Trott, affectionately known to his team mates as “Booger” (we can only wonder) had well and truly established himself as a player of substance in a Test career that rapidly befell us with 49 matches over five years. During this period he amassed 3,763 runs @ 46 with 9 centuries and 18 half centuries. For the purists of the long form, he is yet to hit a ball over the fence but has 443 boundaries (1172 runs = 47% of total runs) evidence of an ability to consistently strike the ball with purpose.
Add to this his One Day record from 68 matches for 2819 runs @ 51 with 4 centuries and 22 half centuries (including getting over the fence 3 times) he practically seemed to be always at the crease.
The unraveling of his inner self came over a period and the last two dismissals to Mitchell Johnson in Brisbane with most of his stumps exposed from elaborate movement across the crease highly unusual for this skilled craftsman.
From the afore referenced article an amazing insight into Trott and his behaviours:
Dr Winsley plans on using Jonathan Trott as a case study for his students. Speaking to Ian Ward on Sky at the start of the summer, Trott described his exit from England’s Ashes tour in 2013-14 and listed many of the symptoms Winsley has pointed to as being indicative of an overtrained individual.
“I remember day two or day three, it was a bit of a blur. I was getting headaches and all sorts of things and I wasn’t eating properly towards the end and that’s when the sleep started getting disruptive and, emotionally, that was probably when I was the worst and it just boiled over.”
What preceded this explains a lot. Trott said it built up through the end of the Ashes in England and the ODI series. “The three weeks in between wasn’t time off because I was working hard in the nets – two hours, two-and-a-half hours in the nets with Ashley Giles in the indoors, it was pretty relentless.” In Australia before the first Test, Trott remembered going to extra training in the two days off before the first Test. “After training, when everyone wanted to leave I was still in the nets. Cookie (Alastair Cook) wants to name the team. ‘Trotty’s not here, he’s still in the nets.’ Where does it end?”
Winsley says this is a common response to being in a non-functional overreaching state. “Sometimes the mindset of the athlete is: ‘My performance has suffered. How do I get back to playing how I was?’ And they try and train more.”
Last year, there were two Ashes series. Next year has another, and a World Cup. As we see with Trott, these competitions bring increased stress levels long before they actually take place. Even if a player gets a physical rest in between, the mental stresses could well remain.
Cricket is a sport with a known link to mental ill health – David Frith felt moved to write two books examining the sport’s alarming suicide rates. Is it responsible to play international cricket without an off season, when that may be a player’s best opportunity to get away from the game?
The author recently had the good fortune of being involved with the coaching group at Middlesex CCC during which there was a One Day match at Lords v Warwickshire, a narrow loss by 4 runs to the home side. Nothing unusual in that Trott was the key focus in planning. The post match debrief at training in the Nursery on the Wednesday after this match at Lords revealed a huge amount of respect amongst the players, a rather animated discussion around Trott (78 from 108 balls) and the tactics utilised. Eoin Morgan, resplendent in preparation and analysis with his “black book” of knowledge packed with carefully scribed notes, presented the perspective from the captain’s view which was supported then extended by Chris Rogers around the basis of closing down zones. Trott is still seen from within as a player of immense quality in any game he plays.
The science at elite level we do not yet know properly. There are plenty of theories around workload, training intensity or casual relaxation. Taking the thought to extreme points, recollections and myths aplenty exist, either personally or observed, where something out of the box has occurred with the main act being severely “under the weather” (self inflicted) or injured in some manner.
But fundamentally a state of wellness, calmness, relaxation and clarity is sought. How to find this – the enticement and exciting search for us all.