Thursday, 17 November 2011

Mr Inverarity's Hairdrier

The scoreboard tells the story
It has to be accepted that looked at from any angle, and under any light 47 all out is a pretty poor effort.  It would be a poor effort for Fantasy Bob's All Star Carlton 4th XI - lowest total last season 86 in the rain on a muddy strip at Fauldhouse to lose by 3 runs just in case you might be interested.  But for a fully fledged Test team packed with players who do all that practice and training stuff, it is pathetic.  Not very good at all.  And it was on a covered wicket.  It would have been worse at Fauldhouse.

When England were skittled for 51 in the West Indies in 2009, they bounced back. Their next innings was 566-9, and even though they failed to win any of the remaining Tests in the series, they had the upper hand in them all.  Legend has it they achieved this bounceback through the simple tactic of dropping Ian Bell.  And that was a good wheeze too, for when he came back after some practice his performances were at another level.

So the question is, can Australia bounce back in the second Test against S Africa?  It is only a 2 Test series - if 2 matches can be described as a series, and that adds a bit of pressure.  In a 5 match series a team might lose the first match, then shore things up in the second and move on from there. They could still win the series even though they did not square it immediately.  A side could plan a bit, try different players.  Such possibilities are not open to Australia in this one.

Unlike England 3 years ago, Australia have no Ian Bell to offer as a sacrifice to the god of high first innings totals.   Marsh is out with a bad back and Khawaja plays.  Cummins is likely to come in for Harris who is unfit again, and the hope would be that he adds a bit of zip and aggression.  But according to the press several players are playing for their future.  Ponting - without a Test century for 2 years;  Johnson - his best is very good but it is too inconsistent - but he was a matchwinner in his last appearance at this ground; Hughes - yet to convince as a Test opener; Haddin - brains seem to be scrambled.  Questions seem even to be being asked about Hussey who has pretty much held the side together for a couple of years.  And it will all take place under the eyes of John Inverarity, the new Chairman of Selectors who will next week name the squad for the coming matches against New Zealand.

There are many ways for coaches and captains to raise the performance of a team.  There are many deep psychological studies into how techniques of man management can help each individual identify and realise his special contribution.  There are insight sessions, and relaxation therapies.  There are bonding events and there are psychometrics.  On the other hand there is the deeper psychology perfected by Sir Alex Ferguson - the hairdrier treatment.  A right good bollocking.  Exactly why professional sportsmen should need such a verbal stimulus to deliver escapes FB, but there it is it is effective in more instances than you imagine.

Then there is a level beyond the hairdrier.  The tale is told that in 1796 Dr John Keate was a master at Eton College and he flogged the entire cricket team, including its scorer, on its return from a match against Winchester.  It has to be acknowledged that Dr Keate, Flogger Keate to his friends, was not one of those softies who held back on the corporal punishment out of concern over the welfare of the inner child or whatever.  Over his lengthy career he is reckoned to have flogged 10 boys a day - his record was 100 at one session.  So flogging was in the air anyway and may not have been that unusual to the cricketers.  But one version of the story is that the punishment was administered because the team lost.  Another version, and FB thinks a more reliable one is that the thrashing was because the team disobeyed Keate's order not to play the match because of the rowdiness that followed the previous playing.  And 18th century rowdiness of the sons of the landed aristocracy would put the fear of death into the hearts of Easterhouse's gang members.  But giving a thrashing because of losing is a much better story - and when you think that John Inverarity spent many years as headmaster of Hale School in Perth, the parallel becomes interesting.  Flogger Inverarity has a ring to it.

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