Sports Psychology

The Realization of Sports Psychology in India

19 November 2023, Over 42.6: Mohammed Siraj to Glenn Maxwell, AUSTRALIA HAVE DONE IT! KL Rahul is on his knees; he does not want to leave the field. Virat Kohli looks like a man in shock. Siraj is in tears. And while the Australian team celebrates, the Indians hang their heads in disappointment. 10 games unbeaten, all to come to the final and crumble.

While the 2023 Cricket World Cup was a spectacle of the highest order, the final match left a sour taste in every Indian’s mouth. The men in blue put on a show for 10 matches in a row and looked dominant in every game and against every opposition, only to lose in the final—and what a way to lose it, too. 

Before the game began, no one had quite expected this result, and yet, as the overs ticked away and wickets kept falling in just the first innings, the players looked as if they had lost all hope.

But how did it get to this? How did a team at the very top of its game, which had defeated this very opposition just a few weeks prior and had provided crushing blow after crushing blow to every single nation that it came up against, fall at the very last hurdle? It was all there to be had, so close yet so far. The players would have felt the trophy come alive in their hands; they were one game away from being eternalised in the hallowed halls of sporting glory, and yet it had all slipped away.

While the entire nation was understandably upset by the events of the game, one aspect became quite clear to me - the importance of sports psychology, especially in a nation such as India, which perhaps has the biggest potential in sports in the world owing to its population. 

To understand the far-reaching causes for not just India’s 2023 World Cup defeat but also countless other incidents where a team or an individual has faltered at the last hurdle, defeated not just physically but also mentally and psychologically, we must understand what sports psychology is.

What is Sports Psychology?

As the name suggests, Sports psychology is the intersection of sports and the field of psychology. It is a practical subfield of psychology that aims to apply the tenets of mental well-being and other psychological theories to the applied field of sport. Sports psychologists not only aim to better athletes by strengthening their mental game but also analyse how sport and exercise can better any individual’s life.

As can be seen by the example of the Indian men’s cricket team, often, when a team or an individual is bested, it is not due to a lack of technique. These athletes and sportspersons possess training, technique, and physiological conditioning of the highest order. They receive training and rigorous practice in almost all physical domains, be it their physicality or game tactics. Yet, often, many of them stumble and bow out despite having the best tutelage around, despite having the best strategy and technique around. 

So, why is that?

Often, athletes find themselves in highly stressful conditions. One millisecond, one hit of the ball, or one swing of their rackets can be what it takes to make or break their entire careers. So surely it must come as no surprise that athletes often falter mentally. They find that their nerves or anxiety overtake and undercut all their physical training, hard work, tactics, everything. At that very moment, all they feel is negativity or anxiety, and this feeling has a great impact on how they perform.

When it comes to sports, or perhaps any field where competition is abundant, it becomes paramount to possess the best mental technique. While these elite athletes are coached by the best physical trainers, performance coaches, or tacticians and strategists around, they miss out on one important aspect of the game - the mental side. The psychological aspect of any sport is arguably the most important one, and it is often that athletes simply do not allow themselves to receive this training or perhaps don’t have access to it. 

This is where sports psychology comes in. By applying various psychological techniques or strategies, sports psychology professionals can allow their clients to be completely in control of their thoughts, feelings, and emotions rather than the other way around. The field emphasises the need to develop the right skills to cope with these stressful situations and also helps give athletes an edge over their competition. Further, it helps phase out risk factors for athletes, such as retirement, injury, substance abuse, and overtraining.

Current Scope in India

While sports psychology remains a growing field all over the globe, its growth is slow in India. The main reason for this can be attributed to the lack of educational institutions offering formal training in the field, thereby making it so that there simply aren't enough professionals in the field. Furthermore, there exists no licensure in India that one needs to call themselves a sports psychologist, further harming the prospects of those looking to get into the field. 

Additionally, other variables contribute to reducing the significance of sports psychology in India. Even today, there exists a widespread stigma against psychology itself, which bars many individuals of all demographics from getting the help they need. This societal issue further penetrates the circles of athletes, often making it impossible to get the right guidance without being ostracised further. 

Another aspect that harms the field is poor sports infrastructure itself, and while many athletes have spoken out against it, it remains an issue in the country. While India maintains its gold medal in having the largest population in the world, it remains unable to triumph globally in many sports. This is apparent from the latest losses in both the Cricket World Cup and the Asian Cup (Football).

While India has a gargantuan potential for sport, the mental game must also be instilled in athletes. There are a whole host of great things lined up for this country, and I believe that inculcating a culture where psychology is no longer discriminated against will propel this nation forward in many ways, including sports.

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Samar Takkar

Samar Takkar is a third year undergraduate student at the Indian Institute of Psychology and Research. An avid tech, automotive and sport enthusiast, Samar loves to read about cars & technology and watch football. In his free time, Samar enjoys playing video games and driving.


  1. I watched this show called ‘Ted Lasso’ last year and yes!! It is so important to integrate psychology in the field of sports!!

  2. […] events that may or may not happen. This existence-defining aspect of technology extends itself into sports, more specifically, cricket. In fact, technology is a large part of how modern cricket is played, […]

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