What do you do if you are not getting the chance you deserve in your cricket team?
It's a problem that happens every week in club, school and university teams. A few talented (or well established) players hog everything, leaving others to fight for scraps.
I'm sure you have seen or experienced a situation like this:
James emailed me recently for help. He is a batsman with high hopes of being a 1st XI club cricketer here in the UK. However, he has joined a new club. The club have put him in the 2nd XI but so far he has not had the chance to score any runs thanks to low scoring games.
He feels he is better than some of the current 1st XI batsman but is frustrated that he can't get a chance in the top team.
I'm a 2nd team captain myself, and I have also experienced the frustration of being left out of the 1st XI in years gone by. In my mind, there are 3 things you can do as a player to deal with the situation:
1. Confess your desires
In my experience as captain, players rarely tell you what their ambition is. You have to prise their desires out of them with a crowbar.
It's certainly not a problem to find a player who seeks you out to say; "I want to be playing first team cricket". In fact, it's a refreshing change. I see my job as 2nd XI captain is to provide a stream of players ready to make the step up. Those players with ambition get priority.
So, tell your captain you are desperate for a chance at the next level and ask him what you need to do. If he is worth his salt, he will talk to the first team skipper in selection and they will work out between them the best way to give you a chance while not upsetting anyone else.
I know from experience in selection meetings that fringe players often get the nod based purely on their attitude to playing.
2. Practice harder than anyone else
It's no good just saying what you want. You need to prove it.
And the only way to do that is to practice harder and longer than anyone else.
Yes, it can be difficult if you have other commitments in life, but where there is a will there is a way.
It's easier for bowlers who can go to nets alone with a box of balls and practice bowling at a target.
But even for batsmen and keepers, it's not difficult to find someone who also wants to do extra practice. Good players are good at practicing so there will be a core who you can find will come to nets an hour early on practice day, or go down the ground on the morning of the match to feed the bowling machine to each other.
If there is genuinely no one else who wants to practice with you, it's probably time to move to a club who can provide that.
I'm not just talking about practicing your main skill either.
The best fielders always get the nod in selection when a choice is in the balance, so be as good as you can be in the field. How much are you practicing your fielding now? If you are not one of the best fielders in your club, you need to do more.
Also, you can do fitness training alone and the fitter you are the better you are. So as well as being the keenest to practice and best fielder, you should be close to the fittest in the club.
Anything else and your actions are not reflecting your ambitions, so how can you be taken seriously?
3. Stop the excuses
Finally, it's vital you know the difference between reasons and excuses.
Let me explain. Imagine you are a spinner and you are taking wickets in the 2nd XI but the 1st XI spinner is well established and doing a good job. In that situation you are unlikely to be selected for a good reason.
Now imagine you are a batsman and you are not getting many runs in the 2nd XI. You claim every pitch you play on is a minefield and impossible to bat on. That is an excuse because good batsmen are able to adapt to different conditions (and I doubt every single pitch is unplayable).
Reasons are valid and there is not much you can do about them. Bide your time, wait for your chance and be as prepared as you can be to take it when it comes (and it always comes).
Excuses are ways for you to blame someone or something else for your lack of success. Don't get caught in the trap of complaining without acting. We all get disheartened sometimes but the best players are the ones who put up with difficulties and take action to change it.
Because it's actions like training hard and talking to the captain that opens the door, not complaints about umpiring, pitches or otherwise.