AB de Villiers. Picture: REUTERS
AB de Villiers. Picture: REUTERS

Birmingham — You will not find Matthew Killingsworth’s name among those involved in the Champions Trophy match between SA and Pakistan at Edgbaston on Wednesday. Why would you? Killingsworth has a PhD in psychology from Harvard University and, according to his online biography, studies "the nature and causes of human happiness".

Cricket causes happiness in billions around the world, but that is different. Even so, some will see a connection between Killingsworth repeatedly exhorting his followers to "stay in the moment" and the use of exactly that phrase by JP Duminy and Wayne Parnell in separate conversations with reporters in the past few days.

What is it all about, AB de Villiers? "I wouldn’t say it’s part of team tactics," De Villiers said on Tuesday. "It’s just an awareness of not thinking of the past or the future, as simple as that.

"If we live in the past, there’s lots of scars that we can think of, lots of bad experiences; some good ones as well. If you try and touch on the future, it’s something we can’t control yet.

"So, it’s just wise to try and stay in the moment with what you’re confronted with at the time. It’s pretty simple.

"It’s just a little saying I feel is quite powerful for us, to focus on the … ball … you’re actually dealing with at that moment … and not trying to think of how you’re going to finish your over or the few boundaries you just went for.

"Everybody has the opportunity to influence the game and that’s the idea behind it."

De Villiers said he had not been absorbing Killingsworth’s thinking, but perhaps it inadvertently helped SA beat Sri Lanka by 96 runs in their first match of the tournament at The Oval in London on Saturday. SA’s performance was far from flawless, but they dealt with situations as they arose by, yes, "staying in the moment". They achieved, in a word, happiness.

A dearth of happiness was evident at the media conference after India’s 124-run thrashing of Pakistan at Edgbaston on Sunday. "That’s a total insult to say we’re playing even worse," Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur railed at the thinly veiled accusation that he was the problem.

"If you have a look at our records over the past year we’ve won two series.

"We’ve got ourselves from nine to No8 [in the rankings] and our brand of cricket has changed," he said.

Arthur was not alone in his exasperation at the Pakistani media, whose questions can veer from the inane to the asinine. After being reminded that "the last time you met Pakistan in a World Cup they got the better of you" and that "a lot of people are wanting SA to win a big tournament", De Villiers was asked, "So how much pressure is there?"

"No pressure," De Villiers said, and straightened out what had been lobbed at him.

"The last time we played them in the Champions Trophy we got the better of them at this same ground."

That was in 2013, when SA dismissed Pakistan for 167 to win by 67 runs.

So incensed were the ’Stani Army, Pakistan’s passionate supporters in the UK’s most Asian city, that they booed Misbah-ul-Haq after his post-match interview — despite the fact he had scored 55. The ’Stani Army do not have Misbah to kick around any more — he has retired, as has Younis Khan — and Wahab Riaz has been ruled out of the rest of this year’s tournament with an ankle injury.

All of which will be part of the narrative of Wednesday’s match, in which victory for SA will translate into a giant leap towards the semifinals.

Conversely, Pakistan must win to retain serious hopes of staying in the running.

Happiness looms for one of the teams.

TMG Digital

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