Battles of the Mind …OR … Postcard from the Sledge.

When in 1991 Vishy Anand played his first Linares event he met a Spanish couple Maurice and Nieves. They were the reason Anand moved to Collado Mediano. They travelled with Vishy to many events over the years. Still when Vishy wins, Maurice is the first person he thinks of. He is by far Anand’s biggest fan. Nieves is no more and when Vishy won Linares in 2006, he dedicated it to her.

Maurice still remembers meeting Vishy in 1991. “ He has the way of walking you know . His hand in his pocket and talking fast . He played with Beliyavsky and had barely used 10 minutes on his clock .So I said ‘tomorrow Karpov – think a little more’ and he said ‘how about 11?’.”

Glenn McGrath, with a grand Test batting average of 7.36 (51 not outs) – a total of 641 Test runs, as opposed to 543 Test wickets. McGrath’s autobiography devotes to his batting an entire, typically earnest, chapter. “You see, the way I look at cricket is there are eleven batsmen in a cricket side,” he insisted. “We all have a job to do, and we’re expected to do it with a certain aplomb.”

Seldom has the doctrine of mental disintegration been so methodically enforced as at Brisbane in the November of 2004-05, when McGrath joined Jason Gillespie with their team 118 in the lead on first innings just after tea on the third day. The teams seemed close to parity as the New Zealanders contemplated their second dig in advance. But, with nothing other than orthodox strokeplay, the last Australian pair made increasingly merry. They had added 93 by the close, and a record 114 by their separation, their partnership lasting longer than the eventual response of the visitors – a demoralised 76.

The interlude, nonetheless, was not merely about Australian strength. The New Zealanders were complicit in their own downfall, slack bowling and outcricket allowing the partnership to establish itself. Advantages in cricket are not always taken; sometimes they are ceded.

As  India and Australia jostle in this series, this Brijnath piece in the Hindu the other day. The idea of mental disintegration is not to sledge. It was not to coin a new term. It is (and must be) to get the best out of yourself. And cast doubt  in the mind of the opposition. Anything else, is missing the point.

Lalchand Rajput says “We’re at home and we’ll give it to them strong. Just as we expect them to give it to us strong when we go over”. I am not so sure thats all correct either. Or maybe it is but only partly so because on the field, Australia don’t play it any different home or away. Off the field is where the difference lies. Mitch Johnson’s been familiarising himself  with conditions  at the MRF pace academy. Brett Lee’s recording songs and wooing girls (Asha Bhosale qualifies). Adam Gilchrist is mixing with street children between games and visiting charities that he’s associated with. Matthew Hayden’s taking his fishing buddy Andrew Symonds along in Cochin to the children’s home he’s a patron of and once he’s done with that he’s visiting places to learn cuisine as part of the Matthew Hayden cookbooks. Its part of their efforts at trying to “feel at home”.

After yesterday’s  9 wicket victory which ensures they can’t lose, Ricky Ponting said  they came with the idea of winning every match, but now that they’d lost at Chandigarh, they’ll try and settle for next best. 

What one must realise- and hopefully learn is that the Aussies want to beat you, hammer you and grind you to dust, even humiliate you – but its nothing personal.


12 thoughts on “Battles of the Mind …OR … Postcard from the Sledge.

  1. I don’t agree with -” its nothing personal”..

    It’s the same argument as Mcgrath is such a gentleman outside the cricket field.. Most of the charity business is a part of the marketing gimmick.. They know very well that India is the place where they can make most money, and they go all out to ensure that thier PR is outstanding.

    Full marks to the Ozs and JK tyres


  2. So what you are basically insinuating Sfx is that if there is enough pre-publicity about the charity work done by a player, any player, it is perfectly acceptable for them to be pigs on the field of play.

    “What one must realise- and hopefully learn is that the Aussies want to beat you, hammer you and grind you to dust, even humiliate you – but its nothing personal.” – too simplistic don’t you think?

    It is about winning and losing. If it is about “want to beat you, hammer you and grind you to dust, even humiliate you”
    how do you divorce the personal element out of it?


  3. Interesting piece – I enjoyed reading it. I do agree that it is nothing personal, and possibly part of the problem is related to the different cultures in each country, and how we are exposed to sledging.

  4. Hi guys –

    Firstly, apologies for the delay in responding – was away for the weekend to sunny Thailand – where the only mention of cricket I could find in the newspapers was Inzy’s tame exit.

  5. Rahul,

    Hmmm – well, its a bit of a cynical generalisation that its the lure of the sponsors lucre thats getting these guys to sponsor street kids but even if thats the case, its good enough for me.

    The way I see it, a generation ago the Aussie cricket teams used to consider a tour to India almost a punishment posting. Whats happened over time – and this could be prompted by greed, accident, sporting ambition or a combination of all of those – is that they’ve found ways of adapting to the conditions and its no longer a “frontier”. Thats not PR. Its preperation, in my opinion.


  6. Hi there Homer,

    I’m not insinuating that at all.

    My point / post does not carry or mention “being pigs on the field of play” at all – far from condoning it. Winning or losing will not condone it either.

    My view is that “mental disintegration” is a misunderstood term. It does not apply to sledging but to cricket. (Or to sport). Aggression is to be appreciated the way Dhoni’s practiced it – as mentioned in the Brijnath article.

    I’ll tell you what i mean by not personal. Sachin Tendulkar making it to no 1 on Warne’s list is an example of that. Rahul Dravid being asked to write the foreword for Steve Waugh’s book (after spoiling two of the most important series’ of his life) is an example of not personal.

    Actually, come to think of it, Steve Waugh and Gilchrist at 26 and 20 on Warne’s list in public is a sledge to his own mates. But when it came to the cricket, there was nothing personal going on.

    See where the line is drawn ?


  7. Hi there Stuart,

    Thanks for the visit. Agree about cultures to a certain extent. But its a mistake that a few others make as well.

    Recently, India played England in the Test series and England tried “sledging” – but its no good unless you can play good cricket. As a team. And England paid the price as India are in this series by losing looking foolish.


  8. Sfx,

    The fact that all their ‘off field’ charities are well publicised, in itself supports my view.

    I agree that up to the 90’s, an Indian tour was looked upon as a punishment posting. But its also the changing times that has contributed. Johnson/ Lee coming to the MRF pace academy etc, Australia A touring India, third umpires..

    What you are saying is not applicable only to the Ozs. Look at India’s overseas performance over the last 10 years or most teams for that matter. Its just that home advantage is being negated to a large extent by global happenings. Even England came and drew a test series in India.

    So Steve Waugh’s well chronicled visits to street children in Kolkata and Brett Lee singing with Asha are gimmicks.. Let us not try and read too much into them. We may be beginning to read flashes of genius/ brilliance in every thing that the Ozs do..

  9. Rahul,

    Steve Waugh at Udayan and Brett Lee singing remixed pop are hardly comparable but like I said as far as all that fitting into “feeling like home” is concerned , I think its a combination of factors.

    I won’t ascribe pure genius to it any more than I’ll put it down to just one-of-those-things / gimmicks.

    I’m not trying to glorify the Aussies. I’m just saying that perhaps Lalchand Rajput is missing the point . The idea is for the team to win , not one-upmanship. Its the same mistake England made against us a few weeks ago.

    This series, Rajput tried moulding the team to take on the Aussies at their strength. He’s made more mistakes, like taking on the chairman of selectors through the media. Like you mention , the home advantage in terms of pitches etc. is largely a thing of the past – and yet thats what we were looking to go on about….


  10. i agree with rahul about the australians being gentlemen off the field.Didnt someone say that you can learn more about a guy in one hour of play than a year of conversation.All this play hard on the field and have a beer off it is bs.

  11. I think the Aussies practice ‘mental disintegration’ before, during and after the game and it is part of their whole strategy of beating teams and it has worked well for them.

    The Aussies were too friendly with the England team off the field during the 2005 Ashes tour and apparently lost that invincibility that they normally exude as part of their game plan. They put this part of the reason for their defeat as they were not able to distance themselves and practice ‘mental integration’ and the opposing team became familiar with them and were therefore not threatened by them. They didn’t make the mistake in the next series as normal services resumed and the results were there for all to see.

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