In July 2019 the England Men’s cricket team won the World Cup, and on Sunday 25th August 2019 Ben Stokes steered the team to a record run-chase to delivery victory against Australia in the 3rd Ashes Test Match.

Ground-breaking individualised training programmes are helping the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to prepare their players to face the pressure of performing on the pitch, and were a key factor in the England Men’s teams’ recent world cup success.

Researchers at Bangor University have been working with the ECB to ensure that the physical and mental preparation all of men and women cricketers are optimal when facing the pressure of performing whether at County or international levels.

The training programme developed between the University’s School of Sports, Health & Exercise Sciences and the ECB has led to the creation of individualised training techniques and regimes for each player. Each intervention is based on player characteristics identified using techniques including coach interviews, psychological profiling, and both cognitive and psychohysiological tests. The data are then analysed by a team of six elite performance experts from the University, who then design individualised training techniques and regimes for each player.

This programme was successfully piloted in 2016. Following the successful trial, the project was then rolled out into the counties and has now been widened to include the senior men’s and women’s teams.

The collaborative approach to scientific understanding is described as key to the programme’s success. The coaches on the ground contribute both practical experience and personal knowledge of players whilst the researchers utilise their academic understanding of performance to deliver a more scientific approach to planning training.

As Dr Ross Roberts, one of the team members explains: “The idea that completely individualised approaches to pressure training might provide the greatest performance benefits is something that has been talked about in the performance psychology domain for many years. However, it is a complex and difficult challenge to achieve which is why no research team or National Governing Body has previously tried to do this.

“Therefore, the current project is truly at the forefront of thinking in this area. Its novelty stems from the comprehensive methods used to understand what might be going on with each player and the collaborative approach we use when working with the ECB; as it is the coaches who actually deliver the intervention, we simply provide them with tools and suggestions about different ways to help the players.”

The research team is part of the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences Institute for Psychology of Elite Performance (IPEP) at Bangor University. The IPEP houses the largest concentration of elite sport performance based researchers in the world. The team consists of academics who bring a diverse set of subject skills which helps create a more complete picture of athlete development including psychological, motor skill learning, and psycho-physiological perspectives.

Photo: Sky Sports