Picture the scene: It's an important league game for your side. You take to the field on a sunny day full of enthusiasm. You jog between overs, clap every decent ball and are sharp on the singles.
But things don't quite go your way. The field starts to spread and wickets are not falling as you would hope.
How long before heads start to go down and the game is played in a kind of resigned silence?
If your club is anything like the ones I have played for, it can lead to a spiral of team spirit reducing your chances of getting what you want as you think about the opposition racking up a record score.
Like you I have often wondered how to avoid this happening. It's something that seems so close to our own control yet so difficult to influence when the atmosphere changes.
For me, they key to reversing this is through effective leadership.
Leadership is not just about the captain though, it's the interaction between all players over time and something all cricketers can understand.
How do you go about this in your club team?
A Team of Captains
It's often said that the best sides are a team of captains. This does not mean that there is a committee meeting for every field change. Instead, there are several (if not all) players who show the qualities of leadership even if they are not officially captain.
Commonly, these players can be identified by their confidence, motivation, optimism and cricket brain. They are also able to understand the view of others.
Cricketers may not naturally be like this, but can train themselves. Take a look at my Getting The Right Attitude for Cricket series to get some tips.
Leaders (whether appointed captains or respected players) need to know their team well. When motivation is lost some players respond best to an arm round the shoulder. Other needs a kick to get them going.
Friendships make a difference, with different players exerting more influence through being pals.
Different people also have different values. Especially in club cricket, where the enjoyment of the game may often be more important to players than the result.
A side where everyone knows everyone else's 'buttons' like this can drag themselves up when heads go down.
Wicketkeepers and captains are especially important in this as they are generally looked at as the central points on the pitch. For more on the dynamics of the successful cricket team see here.
Have a Direction
Just as you have individual cricket goals, your team needs to know its goals for the season, the game and even the next 10 overs. It allows everyone to focus on the steps that lead to success rather than simply thinking about winning (or losing).
Each goal depends on the situation. Season goals could well be agreed by the whole team (or the core players) whereas the fast changing situation in the middle needs to be set by the captain. It's also worth noting that a good cricket coach can be a vital factor in both setting goals and helping the team stick to them.
As you can see, keeping a team motivated in a difficult and tiring situation requires skill, luck and off field work. It's worth all the effort when you see players alert and motivated in even the most dire situations.
Want to be a better captain? Learn from the best with the interactive online course Cricket Captaincy by Mike Brearley.
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