Saturday, 7 February 2009

Jerome Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

The psychology of a collapse is interesting. It's entirely different on the inside to watching from the outside; you can see it from the faces of those involved, the too-wide grins in the dressing room, the way they all tend to sit together when it happens. A collapse has its own inward gravity.

Geoffrey Boycott, as always, had something interesting to say, noting that, as a player, you become too conscious of its gathering momentum. The opposition, the crowd, the noise, the vibes, all sweep you along. Suddenly, you're in it, dragged outside of your game. The number of England players rooted to the crease, caught in the headlights, was telling. Jerome Taylor produced two terrific deliveries, to Pietersen and Prior. They seemed to take more than one wicket each. 

From the outside of course, it's different. England should cancel the papers tomorrow. But it's not really the details that matter, it's that the start of a collapse - and the reaction to it - is a measure of the psychological health of a team. Teams in good health can usually halt the slide at four or five wickets. Australia, at their peak, did so many times. England are far less robust; the decline since Fletcher's departure has been steady. 

They lost the first Test in New Zealand last winter. Significantly, Harmison and Hoggard, two big players, were dropped afterwards. The mental health of the team improved. Perhaps Bell and Collingwood will go this time.


Kartikeya said...

Im glad Jerome Taylor made his presence felt.

The one underrated event in the history of recent English cricket has been the absence of Marcus Trescothick. Ironically, while Trescothick was playing, i always felt that he was Sehwagesque in temperament - in that he was especially impervious to these collective moods.

The class of Michael Vaughan is another thing which England possessed, which they don't today.

Im reminded of something Sunil Gavaskar said about India's 42 all out in England in 1974 - he said there was something in the wicket, and the 5 specialist Indian batsmen got 5 very good deliveries, and not much was expected from the rest.

This appears to have been somewhat similar.

Ceci said...

Do you think it's partly because they are managed by committee?

Suppose a collapse like this happens to all teams - I guess it's what you do with the next few matches that count. Who is going to do the glueing together - and the boosting for they must be very low - don't buy into the superstars not caring thing at all

achettup said...

Another fascinating post OB. It makes me wonder if there really are only two ways you can get yourself out of a collapse: with a lot of luck or slipping into "the zone" almost immediately. The latter of course is built on a number of factors, confidence being among the most important.
Otherwise it really is quite difficult to stem the flow or momentum that the opposition, or as you've said, the way the entire environment just overwhelms you.
Kartikeya, did you also find this sentence to be the most telling "and not much was expected from the rest."

The Old Batsman said...

Kartikeya, I hadn't heard that story, but yes. Except England only needed two good balls - KP and Prior!
I actually think Trescothick is worth considering for home tests only, if he felt he could do it.

Lots of media today have mentioned that England won the next test after being dismissed for 46 in 1994, so I guess we'll see. We only have to wait till Friday. I don't know if anyone has ever analysed how often a side rebuilds from a position of 30-odd for 5- would be very interesting to see how often the slide is arrested.

12th Man said...

When Australia toured WI earlier in 2008, WI had Australia at 18-5 in an innings. Australia still went on to make 300 with the lower order firing. But such recoveries don't happen to mortal sides that easily. India included.