Shane Watson witnessed one of cricket’s greatest tragedies unfolding on the field. He was one of the players at the Sydney Cricket Ground when Phillip Hughes was felled by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield match in late 2014. The talented opener, who played for Australia in 26 Tests and 25 ODIs, died at a hospital two days later.

Watson feared it could happen to him, too. All it could take is just one ball. Watson overcame that trauma. He became an even better cricketer than he was before, in fact. In the book, The Winner’s Mindset, he tells us how.

More than a self-help book

This is no autobiography, though. It is, if you want to be precise, a self-help book. But to call it just that would be unfair.

It offers some fascinating insights not just from Watson, one of cricket’s finest all-rounders of his generation, but from some of the greatest cricketers of all time like Viv Richards, Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid as well. The author tells us, in vivid details, how by mentally becoming stronger his career was transformed, though that happened towards the end of it.

Watson has had a career that most cricketers would be proud of. He made 10,950 runs and took 291 wickets for Australia across formats. He was part of the Australian team that won two World Cups. Two of the teams he played for won the IPL – Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2008 and then Chennai Super Kings in 2018.

It was an exceptional innings by Watson that won CSK the final against Sunrisers Hyderabad. He was 36 then. At the Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai, chasing SRH’s 178 for six, he had begun slowly, without scoring any run for the first 10 balls he faced.

He saw his opening partner Faf du Plessis getting out, playing a shot he normally would not have. He had done that because Watson had not been scoring fast enough.

Negative thoughts – such as guilt – could have impacted him, but he did not allow that. He went on to play one of the greatest IPL innings ever – 117 not out off just 57 balls. It remains one of the greatest in the history of the IPL.

It also exemplifies best what he learnt about the mind, from Dr. Jacques Dallaire, a mental skills guru based in the United States. It was a chance encounter with Will Power, an Australian race driver -- he underwent a harrowing experience similar to Watson’s -- that made him take a plane to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mental techniques

The lessons that Watson learnt and his own experiences as one of the world’s best cricketers make The Winner’s Mindset different from the usual self-help books. Watson’s brutal honesty -- while talking about the demons he faced, his insecurities, his failures, and the wrong things he did as an athlete from a psychological point of view -- helps, too.

The book, not surprisingly, would appeal more to cricketers or people who follow this most fascinating of games closely. But Watson is addressing a wider audience. He gives tips about getting the best out of oneself by applying various mental techniques.

He mostly draws from his own experiences, like when he was overexerting himself, mentally and physically, ahead of an important match, and how playing a song in his head helped him focus correctly while he batted. But he also tells us what the legends of the game did: Richards concentrated on chewing a gum, synchronising it with the tapping of his bat; Ponting asked the umpire how many balls remained in an over though he knew it himself.

On the team bus, Brett Lee would watch a video of himself destroying the batters with his express bowling. The Australian quick wasn’t being self-indulgent, he was watching the best version of himself before a big match. Watson hadn’t known that at the time.

Check out the book on Amazon.

About the book
Title: The Winner’s Mindset
Author: Shane Watson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 288
Price: ₹499