Invincibility, invisible

When he was playing golf that seemed to come from a different universe, Tiger Woods didn't only beat opponents, he often took away their will to compete. Opponents looked at him with awe, eager to see what he would do next rather than think of ways of combating him. Woods had that aura around him that sportsmen dream of possessing. When Woods was scorching the back nine on the last day, there was an air of inevitability about it all. His opponents had bestowed on him the cloak of invincibility.

Jordan had it and Federer did, that mystical quality that injects hopelessness into the opponent; which causes them to temporarily abdicate their skills and drool over what is on display. It takes a long time to build this aura and only a few defeats to dissipate it. When the inevitability of victory is dented, it is almost as if opponents are shaken out of their reverie and awoken to the fact that victory is a possibility. Federer might only have lost a few games here and there and opponents began sensing an opportunity where earlier they were overwhelmed by the aroma of despair.

Only two teams in recent times have managed to bring this aura to cricket. Both won matches before the contest began. Both got into tense situations but almost inevitably either team on the park believed the champion was going to win. The West Indies through the late seventies and into the eighties were like that and so were Australia for about fifteen years from the mid-nineties. The 1948 Australians, in the eyes of some the finest team assembled, produced some stunning victories that gave birth to this legend including scoring 404 on the last day of a test to win (aided no doubt by the fact that the English bowled 114 overs but that only marginally diminishes the enormity of what they did).

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