Five decades or so ago, Dr. Walter Mischel, a psychologist and professor at Stanford University, conducted what came to be known as the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.
According to the Positive Psychology Program website “Mischel and his colleagues wanted to see if preschool children (around four years old) had developed the mental capacity to resist the temptation of a small reward to earn a larger reward later. They presented each of the 653 subjects with a choice: ring a bell and get one marshmallow immediately or wait 15 minutes and earn two.
“While a minority of them instantly opted for a single marshmallow, most children attempted to hold on, for varying times, to get their reward. In the end, only about thirty percent were able to delay gratification for the full fifteen-minute period earning their second marshmallow.”
Following up on his experiment years later, Mischel found that the children who waited for two marshmallows turned out to be more successful as teenagers and as adults. They earned much higher SAT scores, developed superior social and emotional coping skills and were even less likely to abuse drugs.
The lesson is therefore clear; the habit of delaying gratification can be a useful one to develop. Indulging in an immediate pleasure can be tempting, but is it worth it considering you might gain even greater satisfaction in the end?
Prolific West Indies batsman Christopher Gayle has come to value the lesson of delayed gratification. Not that it is a new approach for him – he has done so on occasion. But just as often, or even more so, he has blazed away from early in his innings. Often, he has scripted some amazing innings at blinding rates as a result. Sometimes, however, it has led to his early downfall.
The cautious start that blossoms into the full-fledged assault seems to be more his way these days. As the “Universe Boss,” as he styles himself, has advanced in age, he seems to have found this approach beneficial.
That is understandable. The Jamaican is now approaching 40, an age at which most of those who bat for a living would have long hung up their helmets. Time forgets no one and it would be unreasonable for anyone to expect the outrageously gifted batsman to have retained all the qualities he had as a swashbuckling 28-year-old.
At 28 he’d have been more limber, his eyesight would’ve been more acute, he’s have been able to run faster. At 39 he is but a shadow of his former fearless self, and yet he showed, as his innings progressed, that he still retains the might and the technique to hit the ball far and often. His departure may be at hand (He has said he’ll retire from ODIs after the World Cup) but the end is not yet here. In one of his final games, Baseball legend Babe Ruth stood up and remarkably struck three home runs. There are undoubtedly some hefty blows left in Gayle’s oversized bat.
During the first One Day International of the current series against England, the powerful lefthander struck 135 off 129 deliveries, with 12 sixes and three fours. Those are numbers that, in the end, would please any batsman.
But there were murmurs about his watchful start. He was 12 off 36 balls when he struck his first boundary, a six over long on off Moeen Ali. And he was 26 off 54 when he slammed his second, again over long on off the same bowler. His start, then, was labored, and it would have turned out badly had he been taken, as he should have been, when he offered a simple catch to Jason Roy off Liam Plunkett.
Had his innings ended there the murmurs would’ve grown louder and there’d have been pronouncements that he’s past it and a World Cup spot shouldn’t be wasted on him. Nobody, however, can reasonably quarrel with 135 at faster than a run-a-ball. He took a while to get in gear but when he did the power and ball-striking ability was there for all to see.
Gayle employed a similar tactic in the second ODI, making 50 off 63 deliveries and indications are that it will be his preferred way of playing going forward.
To find success after altering his methodology probably means that Gayle, older and wiser now, understands his game and his capabilities more. It means he is more aware of game situations and of what is required to optimize his performance. “You can’t surprise me on defense,” said 39-year-old Tom Brady shortly after winning his fifth Superbowl. “I’ve seen it all. I’ve processed 261 games, I’ve played them all.”
It might have been out of necessity that the lefthander has adopted this new method. As his natural skills diminished with time he might have thought it useful to get his eye and his limbs moving before launching into full-scale attack.
But it doesn’t really matter how he arrived at his present modus operandi. Blazing away from the beginning of his innings is now an approach that is now less feasible for the Jamaican.
There is some risk attached to this method. Getting out for little after eating up a large number of balls is unhelpful to the team. But his ability to accelerate rapidly and his penchant for huge scores makes it a risk worth taking.
The West Indies is not short of batsmen capable of providing fireworks. Gayle’s incendiary nature is well known, but if he can restrain himself enough to enhance his chances of surviving the early overs, when it is more likely there will be seam and swing about, then his side could benefit enormously if he hits his stride later on. Batting deep into the innings will serve his side well, especially if it allows other batsmen like Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Andre Russell to freely express themselves.
Instead of showing early restraint, Gayle, I’m sure, would more enjoy employing the pyrotechnics from the beginning of his innings. But he has realized that delaying gratification could make him a more productive performer.
Barring injury, he will be a part of the West Indies team that will participate in the ICC cricket World Cup this summer in England. The Jamaican’s more mature approach should help in making them a more consistent and therefore a better side.