Their batsmen have been struggling. Their bowlers have looked mediocre. Their skipper has been lucky in both the Tests that helped him score two big knocks. And amid all these failures, mind games aren’t working for the Aussies in the ongoing series. Mind games, which have been an integral part of the Australian cricket along with sledging over the last decade, are all falling flat as the visitors have been routed in the first two games.
Soon after Gautam Gambhir was dropped ahead of the Test series, skipper Michael Clarke wasted no time in expressing shock over the decision by saying he had expected the left-hander to be there in the side and his absence only means his bowlers would be happy. Something similar happened after under-fire Virender Sehwag was axed for the remaining two Tests. Mathew Hayden reacted by saying that the swashbuckling right-hander could have slammed a triple ton on the Mohali turf. Keeping in mind Sehwag’s current form, Hayden’s reaction was funny, and his desperation to continue playing mind games was even more hilarious.
The Aussies are known to have troubled their opponents with verbal onslaughts prior to the beginning of a series. While most of their verbal volleys have been directed at India and England, countries like South Africa and others have also been their victims. Under the captaincy of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, players like McGrath, Hayden, Lee complemented each other extremely well and capitalised on the mind games by coming up with match-winning performances.
When the Indian team was last touring Australia for the series Down Under, fans were anticipating Sachin Tendulkar’s elusive hundredth ton at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the second Test. As the Little Master was under pressure for the historic ton, a section of the Australian media began playing mind games as an article published in The Daily Telegraph, referring to the `Monkeygate Scandal` of 2008, said that it was the venue where his "deepest shame" was born.
Even ahead of the ongoing series, Australian players including David Warner said they would outclass India in the series and the spinners would be under tremendous pressure to deliver on turning tracks. But from what we have seen so far, these mind games have all fallen flat and it is obvious who is under pressure.
And after the recent controversy in which Cricket Australia sacked four players, including Shane Watson and the in-form James Pattinson, pressure on Australia has only increased. The selectors have done nothing substantial to boost the morale of the players ahead of the Mohali Test, a crucial one for the visitors.
The Aussies need to understand that they are going through a transition phase. Gone are the days when they had the maverick Glenn McGrath who would choose a player to target in the next series and would dismantle him single-handedly. Gone also are the days when they had legendary Shane Warne, whom the ball would obey as he made life miserable for batsmen. Their impregnable era is over, and while they are surviving with their heads down with shame, it’s time to stop playing the mind game.