6:07 pm - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Australia v India 2014: John Buchanan says Aussies must be honest about mental state

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That’s the question skipper Michael Clarke’s grieving players need to ask themselves ahead of Tuesday’s first Test against India at Adelaide Oval.

Because any sign of weakness will be ruthlessly exposed, according to former Australia coach John Buchanan.While Clarke’s side will be motivated to honour Phillip Hughes, Buchanan says if they go into the five-day match not fully prepared mentally and physically they risk letting their late former teammate down.

And their country.Ashes-winning mentor Buchanan, who stepped down as Australia’s national coach after claiming the 2007 World Cup, says each player will be affected in different ways.

“Some people will be champing at the bit to get out there and others will be a little uncertain,” Buchanan said.

“If I was in coach Darren Lehmann’s shoes I’d want to clarify with each person how they are.

“One thing you can bank on is the India side is ready to play.

“Your body needs to be as good as it can be and your mental skills and then your tactical skills.“To me if there were any individuals who are unsure of their mental skills, and that should be seen as no disrespect to them … they shouldn’t play.

“Otherwise they’ll let their teammates down and in a sense not honour the spirit of Phillip Hughes.

“When you enter an arena, there will be no excuses. If they’re uncertain, they shouldn’t play.”

Buchanan says he has seen star players let their emotions get the better of them on the field, and it has hurt the side. He has also helped convince at least one player to step down for his own good while he deals with other distractions.He says in the next few days, Lehmann and his coaching staff need to be “razor sharp” in assessing the training habits of players as clues to their emotional health.

“There might be a certain lethargy about a person, or erratic behaviour,” Buchanan said.

“They may not train as well or they may be overtraining.

“There is certainly a grieving period. The Phillip Hughes incident, it has been absolutely staggering the outpouring of emotion and the depth of feeling.
“It’s not a place to be playing if any of your skills (are lacking). Your ability to bowl a bouncer, your ability to face a bouncer, put together a long innings, with a whole lot of emotion on the field and in the crowd.

“If you’re in a vulnerable state you’ll be exposed by the opposition.

“It’s really important individuals are honest with the coaches and selectors. Coaches and support staff really need to be razor sharp.

“The individual has to be honest enough to recognise the mental side of their game is not what it could be.“They need to be able to express that. The coaches and support staff need to be able to accept that. If your mental game’s not quite right, you make the team vulnerable.”

Buchanan expects the straight-talking Lehmann will have some “very honest conversations” with his players.

“Individuals might be thinking it will come right on the day. But if I was a coach and selector I wouldn’t want to take that risk,” Buchanan said.

“Playing Test cricket comes with a great deal of responsibility.

“I’m sure Darren and the selectors have good people around the group. But this is a test of the courage and the leadership of the whole group and they should be respected for their decisions.

“But once that decision is made there are no excuses.”

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