By Gary Caffell
Australian cricket captain Steve Smith needs to take a reality check.
His comment after his team’s shattering innings and 80-run defeat to South Africa in the second test at Hobart that his players were not taking enough pride in their wicket might be all right if it was coming from the skipper of an under-8 side.
But it hardly makes sense when are talking about those wearing the famed and treasured baggy green cap.
The way I read it Smith is inferring that the best cricketers Aussie can field lacked the will and desire to compete strongly against the South African bowlers, that they were basically giving their wickets away.
I don’t believe that for a minute.
If anything, in fact, it was probably a case of the batsmen trying too hard and lacking the mental freedom to play their natural games as a consequence, a scenario which invariably leads to dismissals through poor stroke judgement.
Cricket can be a strange old game.
The team aspect is hugely important when you are in the field because bowlers are only likely to succeed if catches are snapped up but when it comes to batting the onus is much more on the individual.
There is no place to hide as the bowler and fielders stare you down, at that moment you are alone and whether you flourish is very much dependent on your state of mind.
Any lack of confidence and you are very probably a dead duck, literally and figuratively.
For me the catastrophic effort of the Aussies in Hobart – and we can throw in the Blacks Cup during the tests on their tour of India if you like – has significantly more to do with mental aptitude than pride.
In essence they want desperately to perform well for their country but they are being tormented by self-doubt, something which is not exactly helped by a super critical media only interested in bare results.
It probably won’t happen but if I was the Aussie selectors I would be very tempted to stay with exactly the same line-up for the third test with the South Africans and talk long and hard to the players about adopting a positive mindset from the word go, to be prepared to take risks from time to time and – this is the hardest ask of all – to enjoy themselves.
Do all that and they just might be pleasantly surprised at the end result.