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It's mind over matter for Snape

cricket Updated: Apr 26, 2008 01:42 IST
Varun Gupta
Varun Gupta
Hindustan Times
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Wisdom comes from experience; experience comes from making mistakes.

And Jeremy Snape, former England off-spinner and now a psychologist with the Jaipur team, confesses to have made quite a few over his 20-year first-class career.

Mistakes that prompted him to introspect and eventually arrive at the same conclusion John Milton had in the 17th century the mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.

Having played the game so long, I saw a pattern that the biggest challenges I faced were not physical but mental, a relaxed Snape told HT on Friday. I met various players from different sports and found a common thread, that their problems were similar to mine, they faced similar issues. That eventually drew me towards psychology, and a course in sports psychology ensued, he grinned.

What was prompted by mere curiosity soon turned into passion as Snape found himself completely fascinated and immersed in the complex world of the mind. So much so that he now has now opened a company called Sporting Edge that helps players deal with the mental anxieties and distress.

What I learned was fascinating. When you start any game, it is 20 per cent mental, 80 per cent technical. But as you go higher and eventually play at the highest level, the game becomes 80 per cent mental, 20 per cent technical. That is why I believe that the role of a shrink is so crucial in modern day sport. As a player gets older, he gets more defensive and he needs someone to talk to, someone to understand him and his predicament. I do that, he said, taking pride in his explanation.

Snape's efforts and zealousness did not go unnoticed. Soon he was picked up by the England Cricket Board to exorcise the mental demons that were haunting the English team post their disastrous tour of Australia. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to get the fractious dressing room together few would have in the aftermath of the infamous pedalo incident for which he earned a fine from the ECB.

Ask him about that and he looks up with a boys wonder. It's different with international players. To think that you are gonna teach them something is naïve. But all players need someone to talk to, was all he said about his stint with England.

What was England's loss was, in a way, Rajasthan's gain. Snape's good work was being noticed and he soon found an unlikely admirer in, none other than, Shane Warne, an Aussie, for heaven's sake!

"I was indeed surprised when Shane advocated my name. But now I'm here, I'm enjoying it immensely. We have a great group of players. It's a challenging task, uniting people from five different nationalities and different regions. But having the charismatic Warne around, and Chuck (Darren Berry) has certainly made things a lot easier, he said in his usual self-deprecating way.

Of late, a lot of talk has centered around how the arrival of Graeme Smith will affect the Rajasthan dressing room, which has a lively, healthy air to it. There is no love lost between the two, which both have openly admitted in the past. Ask Snape about it and he has an answer ready.

We've got to realise that they are huge icons for their respective countries and when they clashed, they clashed as rivals and for their countries. Now, they are playing for one team, as teammates, that is all there is to it.

Only a psychologist could have summed it up so nicely.