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How winners take away hope from the opposition

ANALYST
Feature
199   //    Timeless

Teams that win and win consistently, begin acquiring an aura around them. People write about them, opponents read about what is written whilst watching in awe and when the time comes to compete, their rivals lack the self-belief so vital to a good contest.


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Australia were ruthless in the late-nineties and never gave anyone a chance

Losing becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is one of the greater truths in sport and that is why a lot of matches are won and lost before the match even begins. Great teams are aware of this and that is why Australian's stated objective before the World Cup of 2003 to create awe in the opposing dressing room worked wonders. It meant that Australia would play and produce results in a manner that would allow them to focus on their game, while forcing their opponents to concentrate not on their own game as they should, but instead on Australia's.

Similar instances have taken place in the past. When the West Indies were virtually invincible through the late seventies and mid-eighties, opponents would look at a line-up that read Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Richardson, Gome, Lloyd, Dujon, Marshall, Roberts, Holding and Garner. 

It created a sense of hopelessness in them and the opposing team have often spoken about losing matches before they had started. It's an interesting phenomenon this, creating hopelessness. 

The strongest weapon a team has on the field is hope. Till such time as hope is alive, they believe that they can win. Once hope dies, the end is swift.

J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter series writes about the prison at Azkaban, where soulless creatures called Dementors suck hope and happiness from the prisoners. These aren't torture chambers nor Guantanamo Bay, but they merely suck hope and that is why Azkaban was such a terrifying place.

Steve Waugh, who was part of Australian teams that lost to the Windies, often spoke of the desire to reach a similar level, where his team could win matches before they even began.

To create this sense of hopelessness in the opposition, the Australians decided they would seek to win, not only every Test, but also every day and every session. When the opposition analysed a game, and broke it down session by session, they had to come to the conclusion that they had won very little, if indeed they had won anything at all.

To drive home the point, the Aussies made a chart with the days on one axis and sessions on the other. It meant you had fifteen boxes and you ticked a box if you won, put a cross if you lost and an equal sign if the session was squared. Having done so, and upon discovering that the opponents had very little to show for the day's play, they actually put the sign outside the dressing room, not inside, so that it could be seen by everyone. While that might have been rubbing it in a bit, the idea behind it was sound.

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If you want to create an aura around you do not allow the opposition to believe they have a chance. If they win a session, they might start believing they could win a day and thereafter a game. They could enter contest armed with hope and belief. 

So it was paramount that every session was conquered for the opposition to feel totally devoid of hope.

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ANALYST
Avid cricket enthusiast who likes to talk, discuss and report on cricket. Frank and witty, and with a sense of drama comparable to that of cricket itself, he is master at evoking the many moods of the game. He likes to follow Indian cricket's fortunes on the cricket field.
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