Calcutta/ Mohali: The masters of mind games suddenly need a master themselves.
Australia, troubled by losses on and off the field, have flown in sports psychologist Michael Lloyd to help the team gather the scattered pieces and, hopefully, escape a humiliating series loss.
The news of Lloyd’s addition to Australia’s plans appears to be in sync with the disciplinary action taken against four players in the lead-up to the Mohali Test, which begins on Thursday.
But if a report in an Australian daily is to be believed, the decision to take a psychologist’s help was taken before the disciplinary crisis. He was intended to help out the players after the thrashing they received in Chennai and Hyderabad.
However, whatever may have been the original plan, Lloyd’s presence will only help the players to gain an ‘insight’ into their problems, be it the lack of performance or discipline.
Lloyd works with first-class and contracted Australian cricketers. He is the lead Sport Psychologist for Cricket Australia (CA), based at the Cricket Australia Centre of Excellence in Brisbane.
“Before the tour we identified this as a good opportunity for him to work with guys before the second and third Tests,” a CA spokesman was quoted as saying by the Australian daily.
“Michael works across a lot of our programmes and a lot of our teams. He is familiar with a lot of the players. It was a pre-planned arrangement, it’s nothing to do with the past two days. Some of the players have existing relationships with him,” the spokesman added.
The official took a pretty lenient line as he said that it is not compulsory for every player to ‘talk’ to Lloyd. But the way things have shaped up in the last couple of days, one may be sure that most of the Aussies would queue up to him to extract an advice or two.
“Not everyone has to speak to him, but he is here if the players want to seek some help,” the CA spokesman said.
Coach Mickey Arthur, in his blog on CA’s website, has written this: “We want to be the Spanish football team, Manchester United or McLaren of world cricket. The absolute pinnacle where high standards are not expected, they are second nature.”
Well, the current Australian team is more Sheffield United of present than Manchester United. But there’s no harm if Arthur, with a little help from Lloyd, can emulate Alex Ferguson. That will surely make the ongoing series a real test for the Indians. Whatever XI takes the field on Thursday, Lloyd, definitely, will be in it, virtually that is.
Meanwhile, Usman Khawaja is all set to split with his long-term manager Daniel Zammit after the latter had supported the batsman’s controversial axing from the Australian team.
According to a report, Khawaja, one of the four players axed for the third Test, is seeking an early exit from his arrangement with his Sydney-based agent Zammit, who also manages rugby league players.
The report added that Khawaja, who was already seeking to part ways with his manager, was furious with Zammit’s statement in an radio interview that cricket lagged behind the NRL in professionalism.
“I dare a young rugby league player to say ‘I forgot’ (to do my homework). Hell and damnation would come down on their heads,” Zammit had said in an interview.
“(But) cricket is different, you’re pushing against the ocean. (Professional cricketers) have been taught from a very young age they are special. We shouldn’t be surprised by what happened in India, cricket has considered itself separate to other sports.”
Trevor Hohns, the chairman of selectors of Queensland — Khawaja’s state team, has stood behind the batsman in his crisis hour and doesn’t believe the 26-year-old would have knowingly put his Test comeback in jeopardy.