The nervous 90s are all in our heads
HOW many Test innings have we seen fail as Aussie batsmen reach the nervous nineties?
Too many, I’d say.
Boxing Day is often a cricketer’s field of dreams - the biggest day on the Test calendar.
The players love it. A revved-up crowd generates a spirited atmosphere, which often leads to a gripping contest.
But the players’ field of dreams can become a living nightmare.
Just ask a jittery Shane Watson, who enjoyed the best of days against Pakistan until a horrible mix-up cost his wicket on 93.
The parochial crowd felt Watson’s pain as he walked forlornly to the pavilion. He was devastated to fall short of his maiden Test century.
Watson was the victim of a messy run out after a spectacular save in the field led to his dismissal.
Aussie opener Simon Katich was oblivious to Watson’s charge down the wicket. It was ruled Katich would continue in the middle.
Australia’s first wicket fell at 182.
But then Katich copped his own dose of nervous nineties.
Katich guided - not struck - a ball down the throat of Salmut Butt.
We have seen these “not-quite-greatest moments” in Australian cricket for years.
The nervous nineties continue to haunt batsmen.
Why do some batsmen thrive on the nervous nineties and others choke?
A batsman chokes when a mechanism in his mind says: “I hope I don’t get out.”
And what happens? The psyche takes control of the batsmen’s physical actions - and more often than not, they lose their wickets.
What Aussie batsmen need to say is ... “I will make a century” ... “I will hit a six” ... “I will nail this drive and send it to the boundary”.
Look at courageous skipper Ricky Ponting on Boxing Day.
Injured, and no doubt on pain killers, Ponting was a bundle of energy on the hallowed turf - his favourite Test day of the year.
Ponting was on the front foot right from the start, despite nursing his sore arm.
The little guy was determined to defy his critics, and fuelled on courage, he knocked up a speedy half-century.
Tenacity and positive imagery is the key to Test success. Confidence is everything - self-doubt is the killer.
The Aussies can become the world’s best again ... but only they can generate pure, positive thoughts to make it happen.
Julie Tullberg is a Herald Sun journalist with expertise in sports psychology.