Bangalore: It has become fashionable to talk about mental toughness, but rarely does anybody dwell at length. Perhaps, doing so isnít easy. Well, new Team India coach Greg Chappell ' surely, he doesnít need an elaborate introduction ' spoke to The Telegraph exclusively about it over lunch at the Taj West End on Saturday.
The following are excerpts
On mental toughness
Itís not simple to define, but essentially itís the ability to keep competing when the odds seem to be against you. It can be likened to the Ďsecond windí when running... Just when it appears youíre out of breath, you get the energy back in the next few steps. Eventually, you run a lot further than you thought you could. (After a pause) When you think thereís no more to give, you actually give more. The mentally tough manage that.
On having been mentally tough
(Laughs) I became tough in our backyard, during the make-believe Ashes ĎTestsí... While battling it out with my elder brother, Ian... Of course, he would always be Australia! I would be Australia only when playing with younger brother Trevor... I learnt being competitive very early in life.
On whether itís possible to teach mental toughness
Some toughness is inherent, while the rest is influenced by the environment... Youíve got to learn in the first 100 hours of whatever youíve chosen to do. If you donít, you may never learn. ...I do accept some, inherently, have more skills to be tough. At the same time, nothing stops anybody from learning. In my book, making mistakes is the best way to learn. I recall either not understanding or choosing to ignore some of the things my father cautioned me about. Later, through experience, I realised what the old man meant.
On the environment factor
The more fun in the environment, the more hands-on the environment, the more fruitful the learning... Research (on mental toughness) has shown that even a challenging environment produces the best results. A misnomer about coaching, particularly, is that everything can be taught. Fact is nothing gets done unless individuals have the desire to learn.
On being convinced that playing for India has to be motivation enough
Absolutely. If somebody needs to be motivated beyond that, I donít think anybody will be able to help. At least I certainly wonít be able to.
On wanting to involve Dr Charles Krebs on the support staff
It wouldnít be proper to comment till Iíve had a discussion with the BCCI... Dr Krebs may not be a sports psychologist in the conventional sense, but heís the best I know.
On the mental toughness level of the Indian players
Oh, so many are tough... Look at Sachin Tendulkar... Itís difficult believing he has been playing from the age of 16... He wouldnít be the champion he is ' and has been throughout his career ' if he wasnít mentally tough.
On how he handled the odd lows in his career
(Laughs again) As badly as anybody else... Fortunately, my character and temperament is such I couldnít sulk for too long. ... Perhaps, half-an-hour at the most as sulking wasnít an enriching experience! Moreover, when everybody has problems, who would want to listen to your woes' I played in a real tough era where, once you made it to the big league, you had to fend for yourself... I donít recall anybody guiding me in the Australian dressing room... ĎFollow us, mateí is all that was said... Well, that initiation made me self-reliant... One of the problems with todayís cricket is that we give too much to the players and, so, they expect too much. Bottomline is theyíve got to help themselves.
Finally, on the mentally toughest contemporary
Dennis Lillee, without a doubt... We were teammates in the Australian dressing room, but not when Sheffield Shield games were played... Dennis was in a different league... If Iíve got to name one from overseas, itís Andy Roberts. If looks could kill, he must have killed me many times over... He made me feel so unwelcome. Mate, I canít forget him.