The losing sides in the first round of the Super Eights reminded me of a phrase that comes from all those old Wild West spaghetti westerns I used to watch in my teenage years, 'Last chance at the OK Saloon'. For India and South Africa, the pressure is on. South Africa keep denying they have problems with these World Cup limited-over tournaments, but the problems just keep occurring. How did they let Pakistan win the other night?
The mindset in playing these crunch games is your ability to avoid the trap of thinking about the consequences of losing. Even great players and teams can be made to look ordinary when faced with the pressure of the situation and consequences of defeat.
As powerful as the South Africa batting may appear, over the years it has not performed in big World Cup matches. Now that they are the No 1 Test team, their batting has to stand up and perform against Australia.
One of the reasons why Australia stay competitive is that they are good at not complicating cricket. Pick your best XI, then pick your captain. If your name appears in the first six on the scorecard, you're a batsman and you are expected to score runs. Their best batter will be at No 3 or 4 and the opening batsmen will be opening batsmen.
Again, if you're thrown the ball to bowl, you are never a part-timer. You are a bowler and expected to take wickets. If you field within the circle, you are expected to stop singles and if you field around the boundary, you must dive when necessary to prevent the boundary. They understand that catches win matches and practice hard accordingly.
The writer is ex-India and NZ coach.
360 Corporate Relations. Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.