World Cup: Australia are caught up in needless hype ahead of their semifinal with India

  • Ian Chappell, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Mar 25, 2015 09:44 IST

Why are Australia concerned about how much grass there is on the SCG pitch? Why is Michael Clarke begging Australian fans to flock to the SCG as an antidote to the blue army expected to converge on the ground?

A good cricket team would believe they can win under any circumstances and pride themselves on achieving victory in a variety of conditions. The best batsmen block out crowd noise, so in effect it doesn’t matter how many are at the ground or how much racket they are making, it all sounds the same - pretty quiet.

As for a crowd heightening emotions, being hyped up for a game of cricket can be a disadvantage. Anyway, remaining in a highly emotional state for long is impossible and when it wears off, you’re relying purely on ability and thought to prevail.

Signs of 1996
So, is this a sign that Clarke’s side are the 2015 equivalent of the 1996 Australia in the lead up to their final with Sri Lanka? The home skipper Arjuna Ranatunga had wound up their opponents early in the 1996 tournament by saying: “We want Australia in the final.”

This was a brave posture as not many teams were wishing for a meeting with the Shane Warne-Glenn McGrath combination. Then, on the eve of the final, Ranatunga raised the stakes by saying in an interview, “Warne is a media myth.” Obviously aware of this comment, Warne arrived for his interview angrily asking, “What has that fat (so and so) said about me now?”

It was at that point that I thought the cagey Sri Lankan captain had won the psychological battle. Twenty four hours later, he’d claimed the trophy.

India have wisely kept quiet (easy to do when you hold very few press conferences) and could well be feeling they now have the upper hand in the psychological stakes. Nevertheless, they aren’t without their own concerns leading into the match.

Strange Fletcher ploy
Not when coach Duncan Fletcher is in the nets hurling short-pitched deliveries at Suresh Raina with a tennis ball. That is a good method to give a young player confidence in handling the short ball as he progresses to facing a cricket ball at a faster pace.

However, I’m unsure about the value to an international player who is fully aware that Mitchell’s Starc and Johnson won’t be delivering their 150 kph missiles with a tennis ball. There was a good reason why our father wouldn’t let us play with a tennis ball; from when we could first walk, we had to use a cricket ball for both fielding and batting.

The build-up to a big match is always the worst period for the players; all the talk, the nets and the functions are a distraction. The teams just can’t wait to get on the field and play. When they do, I expect a tough, uncompromising match. India have the advantage in spin, Australia in pace and the batting is pretty even.

In the end, the game will be won by the team that worries less about the hype and more about how to win. At the moment, Australia are too concerned with the hype.

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