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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

Pyschologist for England's Cup squad

Shyam Bhatia in London | February 14, 2003 16:50 IST

A sports shrink has been brought in to help boost the morale of the England team ahead of Sunday's match with Holland, the England and Wales cricket |Board (ECB) has confirmed.

Sports psychologist Steve Bull was flown into Cape Town last Thursday (yesterday) as controversy contoinued to rage over whether England should have played Zimbabwe in Harare.

ECB managers were said to be concerned that the endless talks with lawyers and union representatives were creating a negative mindset for the players, some of whom were spending time playing soccer instead of concentrating on the willow.

Bull's arrival has been welcomed by left arm spinner Ashley Giles who said, "We needed to draw a line under the last few weeks after everything that's been happening off the field, refocus on cricket and re-evaluate our goals and game plans for the World Cup.

"Even if guys don't necessarily believe in the use of sports psychology, everyone at the session had some input and it's up to each individual how much he takes on board.

"But we are all professionals here and nobody laughs at it. I can't say by how much Steve could improve our performance, but sports psychology is a serious business.

"It helps you concentrate on your goals and it's all about building team spirit and unity. We had plenty of that, but if anything the last fortnight has brought us even closer together as a squad. In many ways, the way you think is going to determine the result on the pitch.

"Negative thoughts can have a big influence in a tight finish, and the more positive you are, the better your chances of succeeding," said Giles.

The spinner, who had on behalf of the team signed a statement addressed to the World Cup technical committee saying it was unsafe for them to play in Harare, added, "When you are in the heat of battle, everything becomes a bit of a blur and you rely not only on your team-mates to pull you through, but also some of the things we discussed with Steve."

The ECB's fresh submission to the technical committee that the cancelled Harare match should be relocated elsewhere was due to be heard on Friday (today), but no response from the committee is expected until Saturday.

England hopes fresh evidence will substantiate the legitimacy of a death threat letter from an organisation called the Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe, who promised to send the team "back to Britain in wooden coffins" if they travelled to the African country.

The ECB have insisted that the safety and security of the players has been paramount throughout their attempts to get the match, which was due to take place in Harare yesterday, switched to a South African venue.

However the President of India's BCCI , Jagmohan Dalmiya, has said England should be docked points for refusing to play the match.

India are also due to play in the country and Dalmiya wants a tougher stance if England's appeal is not successful.

In a letter to International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed, Dalmiya said: "The ICC should come to a firm and final decision whether Zimbabwe is a safe country or not for playing World Cup matches.

"If Zimbabwe is not a safe country, then shift all the matches from there. But if it is safe, award full points to Zimbabwe for the England match and levy a penalty of four minus points on England."

That really is the crux of the matter -- England would rather not forfeit the game, since that will mean docked points and monetary penalties. Instead, it hopes the ICC will accept its argument regarding security, and call the game off on its own, in which case both teams will share points.

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