It’s always a curious thing when coaches, players and commentators talk about “natural talent”.
When someone does well they appear to have natural talent, according to experts and when they break records, do something exceptional or remain highly consistent, it is revered as natural ability.
But the truth is, if we do things over and over again this is what becomes natural. And that means you can change it.
Coaching (or teaching) can help you alter how you do things. If you are a batsman and continually get LBW for example, the way you bat can be improved. In some cases, a trigger, pre-delivery movement, would dramatically help. But this wouldn’t be natural for you to attempt without grooving it over and over – until it felt natural. At this point, we would say that you had a natural style of batting, even though you had learned it. Because even if you ‘worked out’ the best way for you to bat – you have learned it. It might be self-taught, but that is learning, too.
Brett Lee suffered a stress fracture due to his ‘natural’ bowling action when aged 18. So he changed it into what we saw . To us this looks natural and most commentators said this is a gift for him and ‘how he bowls’ even though he learned it.
There is a confusion over what is natural and the aptitude as humans we have to do something easily. Humans are pre-disposed with different assets that make running, throwing, jumping or hitting a ball, more likely. However, something is only natural if it has been nurtured, developed and learned.
This is the most important thing to remember – apart from instinct we are all born with, all things in our life are learned experiences. It doesn’t mean that all humans can do the same things equally well. It simply means that we are a product of what we have been taught, shared and absorbed.
Those who do exceptionally well as a cricketer clearly perform the most important tasks better than others. Whether this is physical, mental or tactical, those world class performers all share a similar group of ‘assets’. There is a capacity to perform that others may not be able to show.
Whether this is natural talent, for me, is highly unlikely.
All tall people cannot be fast bowlers. All people with great reflexes and concentration cannot be great batsmen. So what is the ‘gift’ that people have that makes them exceptional?
Whatever you do more often than not, becomes natural, feels natural and looks natural. Being taught the right things is the main part of what appears to be natural, gifted talent.
So is there a difference between what is natural and what is natural talent? It is just predisposition that differs, but the common denominator is always what has been learned.
And that comes down to coaching in the end, appropriate to the person receiving it.