Pietermaritzburg (South Africa): Disappointing performances followed by a convincing victory... And more to follow? well its "now or never" for the Indians as they prepare to take on Namibia, England and Pakistan to reach the super six stage. "Now or never" is the collective goal drilled into the psyche of Saurav Ganguly and his men by sports psychologist Sandy Gordon to guide them through their campaign in the 2003 World Cup.
A direct off-shoot of private sessions with Gordon, Australia's top sports psychologist, the theme attempts to encapsulate Indian team's collective ambition in this World Cup. Gordon, who drew praise from Steve Waugh for his work with Australia in the last World Cup, held private sessions with Indian cricketers before their opener against Holland last week and came up with a common goal for the entire squad. Gordon, it is learnt, asked every member of the team to state his own personal goal in this World Cup and after carefully going through their stated replies, came up with a common goal which should motivate the entire team.
"If not now, then when," said Ganguly while Harbhajan Singh's guiding line was "Ladenge yaa marenge". Vice-captain Rahul Dravid's philosophy was to "toil hard and results would follow". All of it was jelled by Gordon in to the common goal "now or never". Gordon's influence is evident in the manner Indians huddle together in a circle at the fall of each rival batsman, putting hands on everyone's shoulders and exhorting each other to do better. "Well, we have done that for the last three games. It's an attempt to get the team together as a unit," Ganguly said after beating Zimbabwe. "Sandy has helped to do it. It's an effort to get the team together.
To make everyone remind each other after every wicket to fight till the end." This football-style huddle is not only a celebration but also an opportunity for every single cricketer present on the field to express himself openly, to say whatever he wants to say about the team's performance...good or bad. "Everybody is allowed to speak (in this huddle)," Ganguly said adding with a smile that speedster Javagal Srinath speaks the most. Gordon has long believed the team should have a mental mission to do what it can do best rather than worry about external situation. "If one looks at mistakes, it creates more pressure on the team," said Gordon.
"A player must not worry about the bowlers they face or the umpires they don't respect instead of this other awareness, they should be self- aware." Back in 1999, Gordon had a keen listener in Steve Waugh when the former was trying to make his presence felt in the Australian dressing room. Waugh, during the 1999 campaign, everyday wrote poems to motivate the team. Songs like 'true blue' by John Williams were played regularly in the team's dressing room.
His song 'Go Australia Go' at one stage was the official song of the Australian cricket team. Gordon, who has addressed the Indians at such diverse places as the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, a hotel in London and now before the World Cup in Paarl for a temporary relationship with Indian cricket. Despite his obvious credentials, Gordon is called on an on-and-off basis by the BCCI and attempts to use his services are cosmetic at best. It remains to be seen if Indians have it in them to imbibe cryptic messages from the top psychologist and do it quickly enough to make an impression in the 2003 World Cup.