There are three overs left in the England – India Twenty-20 encounter when Andrew Flintoff and Youvraj Singh start exchanging words. At one point, Youvraj starts advancing towards Flintoff with his bat. The next over, bowled by Stuart Broad, goes for thirty six runs. Six consecutive sixes.
Whatever Andrew Flintoff said, he did the perfect job in firing Youvraj Singh up. From wanting to go out a hit quick runs to suddenly being totally committed to doing so. It was as if he crossed a line. All his power and energy were galvanised to the one cause. Suddenly Youvraj had an enemy. Someone to fight. To prove a point to. Someone to challenge.
Never give your opponent an easy opportunity to find an enemy. Kevin Pietersen made that mistake earlier on in the competition, when he talked about the satisfaction he would get from sending Australia home early. The Aussies relished the chance to ram the words back down Pietersen’s throat.
Having an enemy, someone who you don’t just want to win against, but beat in such a way that they regret having been disrespectful, is the perfect focus for a team. Often managers and players have to manufacture an enemy. Witness Jose Mourinho’s many attempts to find grievance with someone outside his team. But, whatever you do, don’t make it easy for them. Do your talking on the pitch.