Australia is practising psychological dominance
Stabroek News
February 28, 2002

Dear Editor,

Back in November,the meeting between the Australian and South African cricket teams was billed as that of "equals".The subsequent period has made a mockery of this billing,and created a sense of total disbelief in those who have studied at length,the strengths and weakenesses of the two sides.Four "no contests" have been played,the last of those,in South Africa no less,being the most embarrassing. The margin,an inning and 360 runs,represents the second largest, of victory/defeat(whichever way you care to look at it) in the history of Test cricket.This statistic cannot go unnoticed, it's just a stunning demolition of a good cricket team.

Taking into account the official ranking of the two teams,South Africa's familiarity with the playing conditions,and the compostion of the sides,the one sided nature of the meetings to date defies logic .I'll touch on what I believe is the core factor responsible for the destruction of this sound unit,the psychological aspect.Notwithstanding their sound cricketing principles and methods,the world champions have mastered the art of psychology,and use it to clinically and ruthlessly destroy all and sundry. South Africa,for all their physical prowess and technical savvy,have little to offer in response. The pre confrontation hype created a false sense of security that they had "arrived",the truth was seldom further. Shaun Pollock who entered the series as a capable captain,was suddenly served daily helpings in the Aussie press,of his brainless captaincy and lack of insight,as a result he has been a shadow of his true self.

The surgeon like dissection and exposure to the "elements" of the SA skipper's perfectly normal cricketing brain is just another in the long list of skilfully manipulated "casualties"of the Aussie cause.The relentless pursuit of excellence,has led Steve Waugh and his team to the true keys to success,mental toughness and psychological dominance. Another example of the relative success of their "head hunting" methods, was their merciless deflating of a superior batsman's ego .Having made a superlative 277 in Australia's "backyard"in 1992/93,and following up with two memorable innings(213 and 153) in the 1998/99 home series, both of which were rated in the top five of Wisden's 100 greatest Test innings, Brian Lara prior to his arrival for the 2000/01 series in Australia (with five centuries against them,no less) was constantly reminded by the Aussies of his "inability" to cope with Glenn McGrath,and how many times he had succumbed to the same individual in the past. Scant regard had been apportioned to Lara's exploits against the same bowler and his colleagues in series past.Innocuous as this appeared on the surface,the consistency of the apparent downplaying of his ability created enough doubt in his own mind,and was enough to erode Lara's confidence.Fate, or mere coincidence completed the misery,his eventual returns in the series were ample evidence,scores of 0,4,0,17,182,39,16,0,35 and 28, followed the criticism, with the crowning"mind game" moment being McGrath's imposing prediction before the Perth Test, that Sherwin Campbell and Lara would be his 299th and 300th Test victims,this scenario did cruelly manifest itself,and the hapless Adams was thrown in for good measure in a hat trick!

Lara experienced to some degree the same fate as the South Africans,specific targeting for mental torture, the eventual breakdown of confidence and a sharp detour from fundamentals.These developments happen before our eyes,but we seem unable to counter.There was an encouraging sign recently that New Zealand had overcome the mental barrier,but in its true perspective,it happened in the so called "meaningless half" of the sport,the one day game.Psychology and Australia's dominance are one and the same,leaving one derivative from this situation,and that is ,unless the contenders and pretenders adopt methods of reverse psychology effectively,or develop the ability to totally disengage their thought processes,Australia will continue to ride the wave of unchallenged success in the Test arena.

Yours faithfully

Nigel Mc Kenzie