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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 09:40 GMT
Snape massaging England minds
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport in St Lucia

Jeremy Snape
Snape was involved in England's recent drinking controversy

The term 'self-talk' could come from the pages of a George Orwell novel, but it is the buzz phrase in England's World Cup squad.

Jeremy Snape, the Leicestershire captain who played 10 one-day internationals for England in 2001-02, has been with them as an assistant coach since their arrival in the Caribbean.

And, though he leaves his short-term role when the group phase ends at the weekend, the products of his Masters degree in sports psychology are starting to tell on the team vocabulary.

Here is wicket-keeper Paul Nixon on playing in the aftermath of Friday's drinking furore: "When I'm working my processes, my self-talk in my own mind is about my cricket and my focus, and the negativity is behind us."

Read that line again if you need to. I could be asking questions at the end of this piece.

Nixon defines self-talk as the elimination of doubts, pushing yourself into the right frame of mind at the right time.

"The little men in our mind talk about things but it's about getting them to talk about the right things, not the 'what ifs'," he says.

An example of it in action is Nixon's reverse-sweep, a trademark in county cricket over the last few years and one of the reasons he was called into England's one-day squad.

He tried it and failed during the one-day series in Australia but it has been back in evidence during the World Cup, sparking a return to form.

"Jeremy helped me to get my reverse-sweep working again," says Nixon of his county skipper.

"After being successful with it in England over the last couple of years, I lost the timing and the 100% commitment to the shot.

"Jeremy's big belief is that the mindset in practice has to be exactly the same as it is out in the middle."

We've worked on our bodies for the last 100 years and we've gone as far as we can. It's about our minds now

England wicket-keeper Paul Nixon

Nixon was one of the people coach Duncan Fletcher consulted over the appointment of Snape, whose England career highlight was trapping Sachin Tendulkar lbw in a one-day international in Chennai in 2002.

"Duncan has always wanted somebody who's a sports psychologist but who has also played the game at the top level," Nixon explains.

"One of the reasons we've been so successful in Twenty20 cricket has been because of Jeremy, his attention to detail and getting people to think as they should.

"Jeremy has only been here for a week and the impact he's made to individuals has been tremendous."

Not all of that impact has been positive, obviously, as Snape was fined for not telling Nixon and his five team-mates to go to bed on the infamous night when a drinking session got out of hand.

And some are more effusive in their praise of Snape than others. One England player I spoke to said the approach only suited some individuals, inferring it was not for him.

However, away from the buzzwords, a lot of Snape's approach seems to make good sense.

"He's got the group talking more about each other, such as when Liam Plunkett wants other people to talk to him or what Jon Lewis would like people to say in certain situations," says Nixon.

"There are things we all forget that our team-mates can just remind us of.

"We've worked on our bodies for the last 100 years and we've gone as far as we can. It's about our minds now."

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