Steve Smith admits he had flashbacks returning to the Johannesburg hotel where his world came crashing down after confessing to ball-tampering.
When it comes to State Of Origin I’m a Blues supporter through and through, and every year since I started watching, Queensland tries everything to take the underdog status.
This caper’s been going on since at least the 90s, but it really got going over the past 12 or 14 years, which just happened to coincide with the greatest run of series wins since the concept was resurrected in the mid-80s.
Every year I heard excuses about injuries, illnesses, guys out of form et cetera I bought into it, as did millions of others. This only made the disappointment of losing all the greater.
How did this come about? Clearly Queensland had a media plan to keep their preparation as low-key as possible and get the crowd on their side – after all, Australians love the underdog. They had buy-in from the coach, the captains, the players and so on, all of whom were convincing in their statements that the Maroons were under huge pressure to lose.
What has this got to do with cricket?
In the past few days Ricky Ponting has been appointed an assistant coach for the World Cup and came out with some extremely positive comments about our chances.
“India and England are probably the two standout teams right now, but if you add Warner and Smith back into that line-up, then I think that team looks as strong as any,” he said.
“I am not just saying that because I am one of the coaches. I actually said it when I wasn’t around the group. Conditions in England will suit our style of play … I think Australia will be one of the main contenders for sure.
“World Cups very rarely run exactly to plan … All the planning right now is we will have all those guys in the squad and if we do, it looks as good as any squad on paper.”
These are rousing words for sure, and I have few issues with them. My question is: Are these the right form of words to be using or would we be better served by taking a much more low-key approach to the tournament?
Now is a great chance for the media to help the Australian side – if Justin Langer, Ponting and co are clever enough to take advantage. They should be publicly pointing out our shortcomings – in the nicest possible way of course – most of which are on display anyway. Rather than trying to talk up our chances, they should be suggesting we have much to do between now and when we play our first game on 1 June.
This sets the bar low and would focus media attention onto other teams once the tournament starts, giving our guys a much better chance of winning games. This would also take a lot of pressure off the side, which I’m sure they’d want, so they could focus exclusively on their cricket. Being underdogs can also lift sides to play much better, which we’re going to need to do if we’re to beat the top-ranked teams to take the trophy.
The alternative is to take a very positive approach, which has a high chance of failure given the state of the team, its recent poor winning percentage, the number of players struggling for form and all the other issues cricket in Australia has faced in the past 12 months. In saying that, comments like this from respected ex-players like Ponting can really lift a side.
I’m interested to know what approach others think we could take. I think there’s only the underdog approach or the upbeat, positive approach – or is there some middle ground?