The challenges of playing in Australia extend far beyond the cricket field. When cricket takes centre stage Down Under, there’s a lot more to the game than just the play happening around in the middle.
For any outsider to succeed on the drastic shores of Australia, the key to success lies in the mental toughness and not the plain talent alone. One thing for certain in Australia is that talent alone without mental rigour will leave you absolutely nowhere.
Keeping this in mind, former South African skipper Graeme Smith has issued a stern warning to England’s recently appointed captain, Joe Root. While Root may have commenced his captaincy career with an extreme high, beating South Africa 3-1 fair and square, Smith feels that the Yorkshire lad will be challenged tremendously in Australia.
Smith, who had achieved significant success in Australia with the series wins was quick in pointing out to Root that the relentless chorus of Australian fans Down Under would pose a challenge of great heights for him later this year when the two teams clash for the Ashes.
“It’s how Joe Root will handle the pressure of touring Australia, that expectation, the pressure that will be on him, from the media to the crowds,” Smith said. “Australia is relentless. From the moment you arrive and walk out of that airport you are scrutinized – and abused – and there’s an immense amount of pressure. “How Joe as a leader will cope with that will also be important.”
The former Proteas skipper maintained that the series would be a closely contested one, with no clear favourite as of now.
“England are shaping up to be a good team,” Smith said. “I like the fact they’ve gone with the extra(batter, I think that’s going to help them in Australia. “You can debate who those eight batters are if you leave Moeen Ali at eight, but there are eight quality players there if England can find a top order that can consistently contribute.”
Smith opened up on his own tactics which he used as captain to negate the challenges possessed by the Aussie crowd.
“We actually tried to share some of the load of the crowds and the media,” Smith said. “Like maybe not leaving one bowler down at fine leg for all of one day, maybe moving to shift that around. “We actually created some humour at the end of the day in the change room, because what you hear through six hours in the field in Australia … “We used to sit in the change room and have 20 mins of guys sharing some of the stuff they’d heard throughout the day, which always proved to create one or two laughs.”