India, with its well-credentialed batting strength, Pakistan with its worldly bowling attack and many chances for us to see a World Cup final replay of 1999 had the mouths watering. Neither team could make an impact against the Australians for long enough, to give those mouths the feed they were wanting.
A good spell by a bowler was rarely supported at the other end, a good hour, being a significant amount of time in any match, was reversed with interest soon after and very few, if any, major fight backs from disaster were staged. To produce these attributes, a team must individually be confident and aware of their techniques, as well as very clear about what it is they wish to achieve collectively. I felt there was only one competing team with that vision and didn't it show?
India and Pakistan can play and there's no reason why they can't achieve more in Australia. They must release the strangling fear of failure that weighs so heavily on them. I know this won't be easy due to the incredible national fervour for the game and at the moment, it is that passion which has turned to pressure. Natural instincts were inhibited all season. Stroke play was tentative and indecisive by top batsmen simply not sure of what it was they wanted to do
Preparation is something that starts to alleviate pressure as long as it is effective preparation. Practice anything that you might encounter in the match, so that when you do, it feels as if you've done it hundreds of times before. The spare capacity you've therefore developed can be channeled into concentration / relaxation, the team and thinking on the spot, to counter quick changes by the opposition.
In 1995 our Australian team decided that we were going to target the West Indies batsmen with short bowling, as this had probably not been tried for 20 years. We knew the consequences of this and we set about organizing our techniques to cope with what was to be returned by an angry attack.
Bowlers were sending them down in the nets at padding covered teammates and the practice intensity, rivaled match conditions. The eventual tests were rigorous but exciting to us, because we were having a "red hot go" at knocking off the champs. Rewards followed also, but not until the Waughs dug us out of a huge trouble spot in Jamaica's final test.
Observing Indian training, they too often drift without purpose and appear to be conserving effort. Perfect preparation prevents poor performance and if you have to pace yourself you are probably training for too long without sufficient quality. Practicing at match intensity for shorter periods will bring better results and enjoyment for all.
The Australians have been great and virtually unbeaten for a whole summer. They analyze opponents, which is not unique, but what has set them apart has been the execution of the plans, which come from that analysis. Firmly fixed, challenging but achievable goals from short to long term, have motivated this squad because they had a hand in the process of setting them. Ownership of the dream means so much compared to being told what your dream should be.
I would like to thank all the people for reading and putting up with my steep learning curve, in my first attempt at writing this series. I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience, as I always have enjoyed the Indian people while touring. Many thanks also to Fosters Brewing for making this column happen and of course, for all those beers over the years, which allow me to remember the fun times I've had in a great game.
How much fun do you think the touring parties have had in Australia this summer?