How do you feel about your place in the batting order?
Traditionally, most batsmen like to know where they bat well ahead of time. They may even consider themselves a specialist (for example, opener or even lower order hitter at eight).
This approach leads to stable batting orders, with perhaps the odd change between games. It's good for batsmen because it gives confidence in your place in the line up.
But, there is another way that is gaining popularity.
As we get to understand more about how innings develop - especially in one day and T20 cricket - we have learned that the situation is an important factor. Batsman can be asked to perform differently depending on the circumstances.
That means the idea of fluid batting orders has been taken up.
The IPL has seen it used a great deal because with a fluid order, you match the batsman's skills to the situation.
For example, a batter who is good at digging a team out of a hole might go in early if wickets are lost, but be held back more if the team are doing well. That player might go in anywhere between four and seven depending on the situation.
Why not stick with traditional batting orders?
Most teams are reluctant to go with a fluid order for valid reasons.
First, batsman like the psychological security of the number. You define your job not by circumstance but by the skill set. If you see yourself as a great number six limited over finisher, you much prefer to stay at six and develop your ability to bat in any situation that sees you walking out to bat.
Second, we know fixed orders work. They have worked for decades and they have seen scores rise without doing much different to the fluidity of the order. It takes a big incentive to change something that works for the unknown nature of fluid orders.
The case to try a fluid order
However, especially in club and school cricket where many batsmen are more limited, there is a case for more fluid batting.
So, I want you to try it.
Here's my case.
In 2016, my club team batted in 50 over limited over cricket. I did some analysis and found, when we did well, the innings followed a certain trend:
- Overs 1-10: Wickets were more important than run rate, but runs were more important to the final score than later in the innings.
- Overs 11-30: Wickets became even more important, and run rate was less important.
- Overs 30-40: Runs started to become more important than wickets. We started to call this the "pre-death".
- Overs 41-50: Swinging for as many as possible.
It was clear that when the most suitable batsmen for the job were in at the right time, the scores improved.
Although this was not planned, and it did not work every time, it was enough to get us thinking about getting the right guys in at the right time.
Clearly, the openers are the easiest. They always go in at 0-0 and always have an idea to keep the scoreboard ticking even when the bowling is at it's most difficult (fresh bowlers swinging and seaming the new ball).
However, we also decided to hold back some more attack minded batsmen as long as possible to allow them to be at the crease at over 30, when they would be most dangerous. It became the job of the touch players to protect their wickets between overs 11-30, knowing that the last 20 are the money makers.
Suddenly, the order was fluid.
Players were more likely to go in to situations they felt comfortable. The powerful middle order batsman who goes for his shots was happy to wait 25 overs to get his go, knowing he could be best used in the second half. The solid opener could move out of the opening slot and bat when a wicket falls after the 11th over, where he is best suited to maintain control of the game.
Can you see this working for your team too?
Where to start with a fluid batting order
If you think the idea is worth a try, first take a look at some old scorebooks, like we did, and find out what tactics are most likely to succeed in your side.
No doubt you will discover a couple of little things you can use to convince a batsman to play in a more fluid role. We certainly did.
Then, head into a game with a different mindset.
Everyone can look at the situation rather than that their position in the order, and the captain can decide when the best time is to bat.
Yes, it might mean some uncomfortable moments when you see half the team padded up and one guy slipping further down the order as the situation changes. But if it works regularly, and keeps players engaged in the game as they wait to bat, it will be worth the effort.
Try it if your batting line up is limited and you want to squeeze out every drop by putting the right guys in at the right time.