Debacle Reason 5: The "C" factors -- Confidence & Choking

Everybody from Arjuna "the-7+4-strategy-is-the-best coz-we invented-it" Ranatuna to Greg "the-we-need-to-bat-better-bowl better-field-better" Chappell, and from Rahul "the-could-have-not committed-suicide" Dravid to my loving "the-dont-you-get-bored watching-them-lose" wife think that India lost because they were trifle low on confidence. Really? Let us see.

There were a few individuals out there who didn't really have enough confidence to back their own abilities. Like, Ganguly did not have enough confidence to back his ability to attack the spinners. There are very few prettier sights in world cricket, than the Prince of Kolkata gracefully dancing down the track and sending the spinning deliveries go soaring into the stands. Yet, for some reason he seems to have completely forgotten about that facet of his game. That sure is a lack of confidence. But did he cost us the game? No.

Yuvi and Dravid played very sensibly and showed no signs of discomfort facing Muralitharan. Yuvi fell while trying to up the tempo a bit. Dravid lost his brain for a second and attempted a suicidal run. Those things happen and they weren't because of lack of confidence.

At this stage, India was still on course. Kaif came into the match on the back of an unbeaten 83. He has been in these situations umpteen times before and knows exactly how to finish the game. Dhoni on the other hand had a bad day with the gloves and that definitely affects the confidence. This is where the role of a mentor (coach/captain/senior players) comes into play. He should have been told that they trust his abilities and that he should build a partnership with kaif. Dhoni fell trying to play across the line to a straight delivery, something that he would have played to long on/off for a single on a not-so-short-on-confidence day. Pathan, I believe fell not because he choked. He believed that he could take on any bowler (forget Murali) and backed his ability to clear the boundary. Impetuosity wasn’t really the need of the hour and the coach/ captain should have made that very clear to him what his responsibilities were. (I know they say that at this level, there really isn’t any need for spoon-feeding -- but the best of the best sometimes have a tendency to look for guidance when the going gets tough; Dhoni and Pathan are still young and are in their starting years in international cricket - they needed guidance) It was a bit too much for the rest of the support cast to finish it off, though I feel Harbhajan's wicket was a total waste and that kaif could have managed to find the fence more often than not.

India played 5 bowlers because they expected Dhoni and Pathan to play their roles with the willow in hand and that didn't happen. Whether they were told about the added responsibility or not, whether they knew what the need of the hour was or not, I don’t know. India lost, not because their players lacked confidence in their own abilities but because they lacked confidence in their ability to win as a team. They lacked confidence in the ability of their fellow teammate. Why wasn't Dhoni promoted ahead of kaif when Yuvi fell? Wouldn't that have boosted Dhoni's confidence? Why didn't kaif sacrifice his wicket and let Dravid bat on? Didn't he have enough confidence in his captain's ability to finish off the game? Would Pathan/Harbhajan have thrown their wickets away if they had enough confidence in Kaif's ability to finish the game? Why weren't the rookies (Raina/Rao/Yadav) allowed to display more of their wares in the league matches? No team can win when pushed against the wall, if the team members don’t have enough confidence in their fellow member's ability. Having tremendous belief in one's own ability is a great quality -- Having the same belief in your partner's ability and putting the team's interest infront of self is an even greater quality.

When we talk about a team's confidence level, it is important to understand the relationship between the following. (a) the player's personal performance, (b) the effect of that player's performance on other members in the team (c) the player's response to the positive/ negative feedback/vibes he gets from his coach/ teammates.

Together, these factors interact and influence the eventual outcome. Dhoni didn't perform well with the gloves. He was tardy behind the stumps and the bowlers (Nehra did) did openly show their displeasure at his work. His confidence was low during the changeover and he failed to come to terms with his mental demons when he walked into bat. A little promotion up the order (just one place) would have done the trick. It would have empowered him to give his very best. There are lots of instances in team sports, where one player's mistake demoralizes all the players around him, thus dragging the team to defeat. It is just like how one player's courageous display (VVS' 281) spurs the entire team to march towards victory.

On a parting note, I don’t think you need a traveling sports psychologist to keep the confidence levels of the team UP at all times. All it would take is a good sense of camaraderie and the basic will to put the team before self.

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