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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
All in the mind?
Gavin Hamilton
Hamilton cannot explain his spectacular slide

Only three summers ago, Yorkshire's Gavin Hamilton was one of the hottest young talents around.

A spectacular World Cup with Scotland was followed up by a Test debut for England in South Africa that winter.

However, Hamilton's debut was a harrowing experience as he bagged a pair and bowled just 15 wicketless overs and he soon found himself dumped by England.

Since then, the 28-year-old has been working diligently to try and recapture the form he showed in 1999, but this season things have taken a turn for the worse.

Hamilton broke down during a recent championship match against Sussex. Bowling five wides in his first over, he had to request captain Richard Blakey not to bowl him again.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Hamilton admitted that he had no idea why his bowling had fallen apart so spectacularly.

"I'd love to know the cause of what has happened and I need an answer but I'm just hitting my head against a brick wall at the moment," Hamilton said.

Gavin Hamilton
Hamilton: "The stumps look 60 yards away."

Hamilton may be searching for answers but there is no simple solution.

Sports psychologist Mark Bawden of Sheffield Hallam University, has done some research into the area and he knows that it can be a crippling condition.

"I found that the overriding factor was a massive decrease in self-belief," Bawden says.

"The bowler starts thinking about cricket skills that he hasn't thought about for years."

Bawden says that instead of the action being a subconscious right-brain function it becomes an analytical left-brain one.

"When you start to consciously control what you're doing, it's starts to break down."

Bawden believes that the nature of the problem makes it become bigger and bigger in the player's mind.

"It's an extreme experience. With cricket, if you're bowling wides you've got to stay out there until the over's finished."

Self-conscious

"I found that the players who tend to suffer are those who are quite analytical and self-conscious anyway."

"One remarked to me that when you've pitched the ball on your toes once, it never leaves you that you're capable of that."

The yips have been a long-reported phenomenon in golf with players experiencing involuntary movements when attempting short putts.

However, Bawden believes that in cricket the problem is much more one of confidence.

"In golf there is a definite involuntary movement, in cricket it's more difficult to tell because of all the things going on," he says

"Many talk about a lack of control in the wrist and not being able to let go of the ball."

"The stumps at the other end look as though they are 60 yards away, the ball feels light as a feather and you have absolutely no control over it," Hamilton confirmed.

For the most part seamers tend to the exception rather than the rule with left-arm spinners the most likely to find their actions collapsing.

Surrey coach Keith Medlycott retired from first-class cricket at the age of just 26 after a bout of the yips ruined his career.

More famously Middlesex and England spinner Phil Edmonds completely lost his run-up on a tour of India and was forced to bowl off just one pace.

Bawden says that 99 per cent of the bowlers he has worked are able to bowl correctly in an empty net, confirming the psychological nature of the problem.

This is also the starting point to rebuild a bowler's confidence if is to have any chance of playing cricket again.

Video therapy

"All the action of a cricket match become psychological triggers so you have to strip them away and start again," Bawden explains.

"You have to video the player bowling well in the nets then get him to watch the video so that image becomes stronger than that of bowling with the yips."

"Then you gradually put a batsman in, take the net outside, then remove the net and introduce fielders until you get back towards that match situation."

However, Bawden admits that the process is far from foolproof.

"It's been fairly successful but the yips can still come back," he says.

"They tend to be fairly ingrained."

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Gavin Hamilton
"It's the hardest time of my career"
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