A personal point of view, one nobody is required to share, is that David Lloyd is in danger of disappearing up his intestinal tract

COMMENTARY

News came this week of a death in the boxing family, the demise in New York of an old reprobate, Al Braverman, who once called upon a stricken charge to explain why he was crawling on the canvas. "What are you, a fighter or a snake?" Braverman bellowed.

Braverman's luckless students included Chuck Wepner, a heavyweight known otherwise as the Bayonne Bleeder, who missed going the distance with Muhammad Ali by 19 seconds, done in by the exhaustion of his effort as much as by the great man's punches.

Ali, as was his custom with bums, had not even bothered to take Wepner lightly. He trained in the first 13 rounds and fought in the last two. Braverman took the fight, saying, "The whole world is a mismatch," and Ali prepared accordingly.

The tricks of motivation Braverman employed that night included thrusting ice cubes down the front of Wepner's shorts, yanking at his pubic hair, slapping his battered face and obscene accusations of cowardice. Unimpressed by the suggestion that Wepner was in urgent need of facial surgery, Braverman growled, "Don't worry about the guy, he likes getting cut."

Hearing that an accident had caused the loss of my lower right arm Braverman called me in hospital, an embarrassing experience because, for pretty obvious reasons, I had no affinity with him. "I know how you feel," he said. "I got this diabetes and every three months they take a toe."

Many years ago I asked Braverman how he would deal with Joe Bugner who might have made a bigger mark in the heavyweight division but for pacifist tendencies. "I'd insult him," Braverman said. "Call him a fairy, a junkyard dog, a kyootle [whatever that is]. I'd tell Bugner that he is a disgrace to humanity. It's the only way with those kind of fighters.'

A similar approach was adopted by a British trainer, Freddie Hill, when recruited to work the corner with Bugner's manager of record, Andy Smith. "You big Hungarian poof," was the mildest epithet Hill employed in an attempt to induce more aggressive activity. Smith was appalled. "I won't have you speaking to Joseph like that," he said. "Leave the ring."

You could say that Braverman was a motivator of sorts, so at the the risk of appearing to use his demise as a convenience I move quickly to the fact that England's cricketers are due for an audience this weekend with the Lions coaches, Ian McGeechan and Jim Telfer.

Presumably, McGeechan and Telfer have been called in by England's coach, David Lloyd, in an attempt to absorb the spirit that was central to the success of the Lions in South Africa. What worked for them can work for us is unquestionably the basis of his thinking.

A personal point of view, one nobody is required to share, is that Lloyd is in danger of disappearing up his intestinal tract. The buzz word in team sports today is "bonding". Coaches try every device imaginable, and some unimaginable, to stoke hotter and hotter fires in their players. They believe that the only way to get professionals to practise and play at a proper level of intensity is to bang a drum loudly and constantly.

But where is the pride in an athlete who needs that sort of stimulation? And the character? The only sure way to get a team player to perform at or near his peak is to surround him with good players and a good coach and a good organisation that will pay him for his trouble. The ability and attitude are there, formed, for the management to know what to do with, not to inhibit.

In any case, what has motivation got to do with the highly personal chore of facing up to short-pitched bowling or dealing with the wiles of Shane Warne? Cricket is a team game but much of the responsibility is individual. One thought is that great England cricketers from the past would have walked out on the stirring tapes Lloyd apparently insists on playing.

Alf Ramsey argued that selection for the national team should be enough motivation. When Bill Shankly was asked how he had felt in Scotland's dressing-room before turning out against England he said, "I could hear that wee lion on our shirts telling us to sort out these English bastards."

Shortly before Liverpool met Leicester in an FA Cup semi-final replay brought about by Peter Shilton's brilliant goalkeeping, Shankly appeared suddenly at the door of their dressing-room. "Imagine," he said, "that you are being battered by George Foreman when the lights go out. You've got to do it all over again. That's how Leicester are feeling." It was all the motivation Liverpool needed.

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