Our cricketers needs to learn how to seize the moment
AS THE Cape Cobra’s bowed out of the Champions Trophy, the same old accusation of not being able to deliver at the critical time, is being levelled at the South African-based team. Somehow, this charge never seems to be far away from our cricketing teams.
The single biggest factor that sets one team or opponent apart from another when it comes to winning, as opposed to finishing second, is the ability to recognise the big moments and the ability to play them well. In sport this is called the defining moment.
Many readers will relate to this. Successful cricket teams know when to hold tight and bowl conservatively to close out the opposition.
Winning rugby teams know when to play tight and keep the ball in hand.
The best golfers know when to play the percentages. Likewise, successful businessmen know when to batten down the hatches or when to leverage and manage their risk.
The tough part or the “defining moment” equation is to recognise when it is staring you in the face. Not everyone is blessed with the ability to recognise it.
Unfortunately, you cannot study a subject called Experience at school or varsity. It cannot be bought at the local supermarket or borrowed for even a single second. It is only obtained the hard way. That means learning from past mistakes made or taking a lead from more experienced players and coaches.
If one analyses Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Valentino Rossi, Cristiano Ronaldo and in the cricket world, Sachin Tendulkar or Shane Warne, the common thread is that they somehow seem to deliver when it is needed.
Our rugby team has developed that culture and that is why they are a huge success story. Together, as a unit they gel at the right times.
My belief is that it is a culture that develops within and that each player needs to understand his role and what the exact status of the moment in the match is.
When the ball is given to the fast bowler he needs to understand exactly what is required of him. The middle order batsman needs to know exactly what the status of the match is and whether he needs to consolidate and cut down on risk or whether he should increase his risk and show an aggressive intent.
Sometimes just one shot is enough to send a powerful message to the opposition. The spinner needs to know when the conditions favour his trade and when he should bowl defensively or when the odds are in his favour.
The South African squad to play Zimbabwe and England has been announced. With its announcement came the end of the Ntini and Gibbs era. They were both wonderful cricketers and dropping them would have been a tough call.
Makhaya and Herschelle were pioneers in their own rights. At times the pressure on them from outside the boundary was almost unfair. Their on-field records are outstanding. I was lucky enough to play with and against them both. Their zest for life was infec- tious. Walking away from international cricket for them will not be an easy road. It is what they lived for. We should all wish them every success in the future and thank them for the years of entertainment.
India starts a one-day series against Australia today. The results could be defining times for certain players in both teams as well as the coaches.
Both teams are well aware of the importance of the series to their world rankings, let alone the fans that demand nothing less than a win or someone to blame if their team loses. The result will be about dealing with that pressure.