Cronje was obsessed about beating AustraliaDecember 15th, 2008 - 6:14 pm ICT by ANI
Melbourne, Dec.15 (ANI): Former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje was so obsessed about beating Australia that not achieving that goal hurt.
Of all the South African players who tried and failed to beat Australia in eight Test series after the apartheid era, Cronje felt the disappointment more acutely than most.
According to cricket commentator Peter Roebuck, Cronje turned up at a barbecue in Brisbane ten years ago and revealed with some pride how he had promised not to touch a drop of alcohol on tour as part of his quest to beat Australia.
That night he was true to his word. It wasn”t easy though. He became fidgety and I once spotted him lying on a bed with a strained look on his face with his fingers massaging his eyebrows, Roebuck writes in an article for the Courier Mail.
Eventually he cracked, not that night but later on tour when he started binge drinking alone in his room, he says.
He hated himself for doing it and, wracked with guilt, would rise early and punish himself by going on gruelling pre-breakfast runs.
Teammates sensed what was happening but he wasn”t sure whether they knew.
Cronje became so intense he even speared a stump through the umpires door after the final Test in Adelaide.
The moral of the story is that sometimes you can want something too much.
Australia have remarkably stayed unbeaten in Test series against South Africa over the past 14 years not because they have had far superior teams but because they got South Africa’’s measure where it matters … in the head.
Steve Waugh always had Cronje’’s number.
Even when he walked out to bat in a World Cup match in 1999 with Australia wobbling at 3-48 chasing 271 (they later secured a famous win), Waugh marched past Cronje at the bowling crease and declared “if you bowl anything on my legs I will bash the s… out of it.”
Waugh could sense he had Cronje’’s measure when they occasionally went out to toss and Cronje refused to speak to him. And that corrosive intensity flowed through the team.
No South African player used to speak about Australia’’s mental dominance until fast bowler Allan Donald broke ranks in his book White Lightning. It was published nine years ago yet its words still ring true.
“I would like to sit all of our guys down and ask them why we don”t handle the pressure consistently against Australia,” was Donald’’s candid thought.
“Are we in awe of them? Are they just better than us and we know it subconsciously? Are they harder competitors? I wish I knew. We can”t lay claim to any sort of international standing until we beat Australia. I wonder whether we are too full-on with our commitment. We are fit, disciplined, yet we fall at the big hurdle.”
Even the great Donald suffered from Australianitis.
His problem was that he was so pent-up against Australia he would run to the wicket quicker than normal, finding out too late that, as Brett Lee can confirm, the faster you run the slower you bowl.
Mark Waugh also unsettled Donald because he had so much time to play him.
Donald once ruefully said of Waugh “it’’s unbelievable how much time he has … the ball just never seems to get to him”.
But no man hurt South Africa more than Shane Warne. Warne’’s famous bunny Daryll Cullinan couldn”t pick Warne’’s flipper but the key to Warne’’s success was making their epic rivalry look even bigger than it was.
In one-day cricket, Warne got Cullinan out more than any other batsman (eight times) but in Tests he did so only four times.
Among South African batsman that is well down the list behind the likes of Ashwell Prince (11), Mark Boucher (9), and Herschelle Gibbs (8).
Yet whenever Cullinan played against Australia, South Africa were nervous and vulnerable because a cricket match became a circus and he was seen as the clown. And he hated every minute of it. (ANI)
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