A new study published in the August issue of the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology suggests it might be possible to predict how young, cricket academy level, batsmen would perform when under psychological pressure.
The study involved the standard batting test that is conducted periodically with all cricketers at national academy level and is used to assess a cricketer’s ability to perform under pressured simulated match conditions.
In the test, each batsman receives 30 balls from a pace bowling machine (set at 80 mph) from which they were to score 36 runs in total.
Each batsman’s cardiovascular response was then logged in relation to taped instructions informing them of the importance of performing well and that their performance would be compared to that of other participants.
The batsmen’s CV reactions indicated whether they approach the batting test in a challenge state (positive) or a threat state (negative).
Post batting test analysis revealed that overall, those who saw the test as a challenge performed much better than those who perceived it as a threat.
Apart from the psychological differences between the two groups, a challenge response also provided physiological advantages such as increased blood glucose and adrenaline levels.
The authors suggest that a challenge state reflects a positive psychological reaction to pressure that can be measured using CV reactivity.
A challenge state may be helpful for performance because it is a physiologically more efficient response than a threat state in that it effectively delivers energy and oxygen to the brain and muscles.
Although the researchers pointed out that previous experience of the test, whether they were a batsman or a bowler and position in batting order were also factors likely to influence performance, they suggest that the assessment of CV reactivity may be a valid way of predicting pressured sport performance in elite athletes.
If so this could be used to help form a complete picture of how able an athlete is to reach their potential in motivated-performance situations.