Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/justin-langer/2013/6/11/confidence-and-momentum

Justin Langer

Langer: Confidence and momentum

11 June 2013 1

Is the ICC Champions Trophy relevant to this year's Ashes campaign?

My view is that it is.  Obviously the formats are different but there is an intangible in sport known as confidence and momentum. 

The term momentum is used so frequently these days  that it could be considered a new cliché.  

Commentators often talk about momentum shifts in a game and the truth is that you can often 'feel' a change in the atmosphere or rhythm of a match while sitting in your lounge chair or on the plastics seats of the stadium.

In the coaches box or changing room, you often feel like a simple error, or poor judgement, turns the tide of a match.

From a position of comfort, everything seems to change in a moment.

In cricket it might be a dropped catch or run out. 

You seem to be cruising, and then a run out shifts the momentum of the game.  Suddenly the bowling team is energized, while the batting team is momentarily hamstrung.

'One brings two' is a common catch-cry of the fielding side and before you know it, a run out turns into another quick wicket and the advantage is lost, or gained, depending on which side of the fence you may be sitting.

Dropped catches are another interesting phenomena. 

Like 'one brings two', the  old saying 'catches win matches' has been tattooed into my brain since I was young boy. 

There seemed to be a very common trend throughout my career that if you dropped a good player early, they always seemed to go on and score a century. 

Centuries of course generally lead to victories, so opportunities are lost, or gained when the ball slips through the hands.  

Often you see one dropped catch is followed by another, as the players lose confidence and focus because they don't want to be the next player to let the side down. 

The running mind, leads to tension and the slide continues.

What has all this got to do with the significance of the ICC Champions Trophy and the Ashes?

On a broader scale there is no doubt in my mind that winning, like losing, is a habit.

When you are winning, your players are generally scoring runs, taking wickets, making run outs and eating up their catches.  With this, comes confidence and a feeling of freedom and flow.  

In contrast, a losing team tends to be more tense, afraid of making mistakes and generally scared to back their instincts, preparation and skills. 

Often this leads to a downward spiral caused by over-analysis, fear and panic on the part of the selectors. 

The media and public start to grow fangs and before you know it one loss, turns to two and so on.  

When it gets to this point, players tend to be looking over their shoulders; worrying about the future and/or what has happened in the past.  Individually and collectively this is not a happy place to be for any player or team.

While one loss isn't the end of the world in this ICC Champions Trophy tournament, it does come on the back of a tough series in India for the Test team. 

Mickey Arthur and Michael Clarke will be aware of this as they work to re-build the confidence of the group.

The upside is that every game is a new opportunity to address any concerns, and change the feeling within the group.  Just as losing can be a headache, winning the next contest can be the catalyst for happier times ahead.
Australia can gain some momentum and confidence from these next few games.  Obviously losing game one is not the ideal start; not necessarily because it was against England, but more because it will potentially plant more seeds of doubt and fear.

The great teams and players always perform with fearless intent where they concentrate  on the task at hand. 

Surfing superstar Kelly Slater summed up peak performance when he said, 'when I get into a space where I don't care whether I win or lose, I generally always win.'  

Concentrating on the concept of winning or losing means your mind is in the past or the future.  The very best concentrate on the present moment and what they can control.

Australia have in their control two things.  The first is giving 100% attention to their next game against New Zealand.  What happened on Sunday doesn't matter.  Nor  does the next game or the Ashes in a few weeks time.  

The second thing they have control over is their attitude and intent towards that game.  My observation is that Australia didn't play England with fearless intent on Saturday.

The Australian cricket team is always at its best when it keeps moving forward and playing with a positive never-say die attitude.  

Tomorrow against New Zealand, all Australian supporters would love to see more of this Australian style on show. 

By competing and dominating, one ball at a time, confidence will move in an upward direction.

This confidence must be earned but it will have an impact on what happens in the Ashes when it comes around. 

Winning breeds confidence and momentum, you only have to  listen to the commentators and experts to understand that.

From Perth

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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