In part one we looked at at the common problems that village or scratch team captains face before they even get on the field.
This time we will look in more detail at the unique tactical parts of captaining at the village or park level.
Unblocking the blocker
While most of your batsmen have a couple of decent shots and some are able to produce 50s (and even the odd hundred) at a decent rate there is a more challenging type.
The blocker is the kind of player who loves batting, has a sound defence but has no decent shots to speak of. He is quite happy just being out in the middle, nudging the odd single and scoring at less than 1 an over.
Sadly for the team he is taking up time that other more skilled batsmen can use more productively. Yet if you drop him down the order below opening or 3, he becomes is even more of a liability as you want to be accelerating the runs towards the end of your innings.
The solution takes some careful handling on your part.
Chat with him and tell him you want him to be the rock of the innings and he needs to stick around. But also tell him you need him to score more quickly.
The way he can do that is by giving as much of the strike to partner as possible. Prime him to try and nick a single early in the over where he can. A simple change of mindset is all it needs.
Then give him a target, in a one day village game of about 40 overs, 50 might be a stretch for him but the minimum you want to see. It's a matter of finding a compromise you and he can both live with.
Setting a field to bad bowling
The lower you go on the cricketing ladder, the more often bad ball are bowled. Yet one of the first rules of captaincy is to never set a field for bad bowling.
What do you do when every bowler you have is spraying it around at setting up easy runs?
First make sure you have tried every bowler. Someone might be bowling well enough to make things easier.
If that fails there is not much more you can do than set orthodox fields while watching the batsman carefully for his best shots. At village and park level even the best batsmen don't have every shot in the book, so cut of the ones he can play well.
Then keep changing the bowling while keeping the nerve to attack so if a chance does come you have a close catcher or two in place to take advantage.
Don't fall into the mistake of setting a ring of fielders with men on every boundary to cover every shot and every type of bad ball. You will end up with too many gaps because 9 fielders can't stop everything.
Pick your battles and hope.
Ringers and black trainers
Another unique challenge at lower levels of cricket is dealing with variable standards of players.
From time to time you will find yourself in charge of a team with either a player who is way above the normal standard (the ringer) or a black-trainers-and-shorts player who played cricket at school that one time (the fill-in).
Sometimes both in the same side.
It's very easy to mishandle both.
The ringer can easily take over the match, opening the batting, scoring a hundred then running through the opposition with unplayable accuracy. Meanwhile the fill in player trudges from mid on to fine leg and doesn't get a bat.
So before play starts have a chat with both your men.
You are aiming to reduce the influence of the ringer so everyone else gets a go but he doesn't feel underused.
Let him know you will let him have some fun, but not too early in the game. If he is a batsman perhaps send him in towards the end of the innings. If he bowls give him overs in the middle. Let you regular players have first go.
For the fill in man, ask him what he wants.
It may be nothing but a good tea, but if he fancies a bat or a bowl give him a chance. Again, it's best somewhere in the middle of the innings where you have time to recover from disaster. However, a couple of overs could make his afternoon and that's just as important (he is probably helping you out at the last minute).
Win, lose or draw, buy both of those chaps a cool drink at the end of the day and they will go away with a smile.
Overall, village captaincy is as much of an art as being a Test skipper. It's just a different kind of art, and you have to learn to master the differences if you want to be a success.
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