Sledging should never get personal
There’s always going to be confrontation in a big series like Australia v India. There have been confrontations in the past, there will be confrontations in the final Test match of the series, and there will be confrontations when the teams meet again in the future.
It’s never ever going to change, particularly when Australia are involved.
Australians play in a certain way. They play really tough on the field and a big part of that is to sledge. It’s what they do.
Having played against Australia on numerous occasions, you have to accept that you’re going to get sledged – particularly Down Under, where the temperatures are warm and you’re in a fiercely competitive nation.
They’re desperate to win, and they’ll do everything they can within the laws of the game to win – although sometimes they are pushing what is and isn’t in the laws of the game.
My own view is that players can take sledging as far as they like without getting personal.
But while there is clearly a debate as to whether Tim Paine and Australia went too far on the fifth day at Sydney, this was always going to happen. The idea that this Australia team is different to previous ones, that they won’t do everything they can on the field to gain an advantage, is silly.
I’m lucky enough to have played over 100 Test matches and I can tell you that the format tests every facet of not just your game, but you as a person.
It tests your mental strength, it tests your relationships with team-mates and opponents, it tests your will to improve, and it tests your behaviour when you win and when you lose.
If Tim Paine gets himself into another confrontation in the fourth Test, he will go again – regardless of what he says in between Test matches. It is in his and his team’s DNA, so you have to deal with it.
A series win for India would be a triumph
We know one thing for sure: everybody is going to watch the next Test match in Brisbane. The hype around the match is going to be huge.
It’s quite extraordinary how quickly the Australian media turn on their own players when they start to lose.
I saw plenty of people predicting 4-0 to Australia at the beginning of the series, particularly with Virat Kohli only playing in the first match, but India have put themselves in a position to secure a famous series win.
The best way for India to shut Australia up is to beat them.
We did that on a couple of occasions and it’s quite extraordinary how quickly the media turn on their own players when they start to lose. There’s nobody who will feel the pressure more than Tim Paine and a couple of others if India win.
It’s going to be tough because the Gabba wicket is a bouncy track that will suit the Aussies’ pace attack. But they showed a lot of courage on the final day at Sydney and more of the same would give them a great chance.
England must deal with the Sri Lankan heat
England also begin what will be a very difficult series in Sri Lanka this week.
Sri Lanka is such a difficult place to tour because of the heat and the humidity. As soon as you walk out of the air-conditioned dressing room with your glasses on then the condensation hits them. It’s like walking into a brick wall.
Whether this England team has the skill to deal with what will be an onslaught of spin bowling is one thing, but over there, skill means something else.
It means having the mental wherewithal to deal with the temperature and a lot of short and sharp rain intervals.
Fatigue hits you really quickly. I saw more players of ours on drips because of cramp in Sri Lanka than anywhere else.
Your mental wellbeing and fitness levels are vital.
I was in T20 mode for Colombo century in 2012
More than anywhere else, succeeding with the bat in Sri Lanka is all about your make-up as an individual.
Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara always used to make me laugh when they talked about batting in home Test matches.
They used to call it bed and breakfast. They would book in for the morning session, they would pop downstairs to reception to make sure that everything was paid in the afternoon, and then they would enjoy what the hotel had to offer in the evening.
Basically, they knew that touring teams would wilt as the day went on. If they were patient enough, they would cash in late in the day.
Alastair Cook had a similar mindset because he just didn’t sweat. He could just bat on and on.
That didn’t work for me. I’m the kind of person who likes having the air conditioning on during winter in the UK, so to go over there and play in 40-45 degrees was tough.
I was desperate to make a century in Sri Lanka in 2012 because I wanted to make one at home and away to every Test nation, but I realised that I couldn’t bat for hours and hours like other guys.
I just said to myself the only way I’m going to do it is if I go out there and play T20 cricket. I’ll defend when I need to, but I’ll just try to hit every ball that I can for six.
That’s how I went about things in Colombo, and I still think that the 151 I made was my best Test innings.
For this England team, it’ll be about each individual working out their best method in the most draining conditions you can imagine. If they can do that, then they clearly have the skill levels to go well.
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