It happened in Melbourne with six wickets being lost for a mere nine runs. A position of strength was surrendered, and with it went the Fourth Test.
The number of times England’s batting has dramatically collapsed on tour, suggests that they have not built a reservoir of collective inner strength to handle adversity. Thus one person’s dismissal leads to another. Why?
Kevin Pietersen was dismissed in both innings having a massive heave. His shots betrayed a total lack of confidence in the lower order. He didn’t trust them to handle the Australian hostility.
Trust is the recognition that the other people in the group can handle the adversity they are experiencing. If you don’t have that trust, the cracks appear in team unity. Batting collapses are a classic example of limited trust. It happens when you no longer want to do everything possible to help out your team-mates.
England didn’t have a Brad Haddin. A player who was a rock for the lower order. Who refused to give his wicket away cheaply. His stability and common sense created huge amounts of collective trust. It meant that the other tail-enders didn’t want to let him down. His fight became their fight.
Batting collapses are psychological. They happen when one side has momentum, and the other side cannot counter that momentum. Players come to the crease, almost expecting to get out. And so find ways to do so! The resolve and defiance to stand firm has become weakened.
Vulnerabilities become exposed. Self-doubts magnify.The players look around and can’t find the player they don’t want to let down. And a lack of self-leadership holds sway. Players gradually lose the will to stand up and say, ‘I will take responsibility for this situation’. And so it becomes no surprise when history keeps repeating itself.
When asked to explain these collapses, Alistair Cook has no answer. That’s because he is too close to the situation. He can no longer see, or admit to, the mental frailities in his team.
His group are at rock-bottom. Collective will and spirit has been eroded. England must find the respect for each other, that will cause each player not to want to let the person next to them down. Good teams are built on this quality. In weak teams it’s everyone for themselves. And right now, England are very close to seeing their collective spirit dis-integrating.