Geoff Boycott has a simple formula: If you think your innings is doing well, just add two wickets and see how it looks. 80-1 sounds good. 80-3 is shaky. It's a nice idea but that safety-first approach can only lead to a batting collapse.
As you know, batting collapses start in the mind. Change your mindset and you build an indestructible wall around your team's innings. Only the very best bowling performances can penetrate it. Let's be honest, how many times does that happen? Club and school bowlers are not as good as first-class ones. Teams rarely get bowled out; they bowl themselves out.
If you don't have to fear the bowling, you really only need to keep one thing in mind to prevent the collapse:
You can always turn it around.
But when a batsman is out in the middle, surrounded by a team of motivated fielders it's easy to get into a negative mind. We all know how playing without confidence is a recipe for failure.
The good teams have the mental strength to ignore the distraction of wickets and get on with playing the ball on its merits.
But this is easier said than done.
How to stop a wobble turning into a collapse
Fortunately there are some practical things that can be done to keep genuinely positive (false positivity is as useless as Phil Tufnell's batting).
It starts with the batsmen in the middle taking responsibility. If the bowling team are on top, your job is get you back there instead. You can only do that by being out in the middle.
So keep talking to your partner at the other end. Make sure the conversation is one of two things. The first is nothing to do with cricket at all. Talk about what you are having for dinner or a good film you have seen. This relaxes your mind and allows you to concentrate harder when the game is back on. The second method is to discuss practical positive elements:
- Where the gaps are to steal extra runs
- What tactics to employ
- Which fielders are weaker
On top of talking to your batting partner, it's also good to talk to yourself. Your internal conversation can be positive or negative. Learn to keep it positive and the match situation barely matters anymore. You are simply batting in the zone.
Stopping a collapse from the sidelines
You can extend this thinking beyond the boundary too.
Imagine the scene: Your side lose a couple of quick wickets. The batsmen who are out complaining about the pitch or the brilliant bowling while the next man in sits biting his nails. Opposition bowlers reputations are discussed in detail making them seem all the better than they really are.
Everybody is thinking "I hope we don't collapse again". The very thought making the possibility more likely.
Now imagine the same situation where the team are discussing ways to play better. The out batsmen, although upset, are talking about the best way to play to the next players in. The opposition tactics are analysed and weaknesses are found. There is a general feeling that whatever the situation, we can outplay the opposition. When they are not talking tactics they are talking about anything but the loss of wickets and how indestructible the opposition are.
The latter team have far less collapses than the former.
A lot of this can be driven by the captain, playing down negative talk and encouraging discussion. However, anyone in the team can just start talking tactics. Even saying something stupid will relax players and stop them worrying about the imminent collapse.
With these simple tactics a change of mindset insulates you against all but the very best bowlers. Use them and watch your team improve.
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