Clutch, pressure, choke: the language of cricketing discourse

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Clutch, pressure, choke: the language of cricketing discourse

In the latest episode we discuss popular terms used to describe a cricketing contest – and why these are often lazy alternatives with no standard definition.

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Talking Points:

  • The category error in sports – when stories are used to describe contests
  • The narrative around ‘big moments’ and how some phases are assumed to ‘decide’ contests
  • The rampant discourse around ‘pressure situations’
  • The belief that some players are superior at the finish than at the start
  • Jordan and Robert Horry – and the spread of the clutch narrative
  • Australia v South Africa, Edgbaston, 1999: narrative gold
  • How does one explain Klusener’s approach to the final over of the semi-final?
  • The future of cricket discourse – and ways to describe the entire contest


Siddhartha Vaidyanathan (@sidvee)

Kartikeya Date (@cricketingview)

Mahesh Sethuraman (@cornerd)

Ashoka (@ABVan)




Lead image from here.

2 thoughts on “Clutch, pressure, choke: the language of cricketing discourse”

  1. I feel the simplest argument in your discussion to downplay pressure is that as the game draws to a close – both sides feel it equally – so it either cancels out or it doesn’t exist at all . At that point you are left with only skills and choices made in deploying skills. In tennis this narrative is actually more prevalent where some points are said to be more important .This really is an illusion is created by the sub category based scoring system. Points->games->sets->match.

    However the physiological effects of pressure are real. There is a big body of work on this topic . I’d point you to work done by Allen Fox, Timothy Gallaway where they talk about the conscious self and subconscious. And individual sports like tennis, shooting etc do teach coping with nerves & pressure. Breathing,vizualization, mindfulness , go-to plays ( and patterns). In Cricket the coaching and the discourse around it is still lacking. I feel the discussion should instead be on the notion of risk . Essentially how players master “risky play” . The more they do it over a pro-career , the better they get and therefore it becomes less risky.

    On narrative-based cricket commentary and writing I agree that ex-players truly don’t have too much insight to offer since they are subjected to the same (or worse) narratives in their formative years. This is OK because it the way you get new fans into the sport- by romanticizing it and adding color to keep it entertaining. You guys probably fell in love with the game this way- I know I did :-). I don’t think we should begrudge this style as long as it does not devolve into idiotic slander. After a certain point based on one’s tastes we learn to tune it out. This is how I watch tennis- mute the TV and get on WhatsApp/discord 🙂

    1. Thanks Tarun. Definitely want to do an episode talking to a sports psychologist about ‘risky play’ and other aspects you have touched upon.

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