This is part one of a series on how to captain in the field. To go back to the introduction click here.
A good cricket team has a certain attitude. They concentrate on every ball, show a never say die attitude and encourage each other in the right ways. However, this is easier said than done, especially in sides where the attitude has historically been different.
A good captain starts to build team spirit long before the side go onto the field. However once you are out there, you can continue to install a positive attitude.
As captain you should take the time to tell the team what you expect of them while they are in the field. This can be awkward. Most captains are dealing with their peers who are playing perhaps their one game of the week (and giving up valuable time to play).
That said if players do lose concentration or go flat it's important to nip it in the bud. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, bring in the support of senior players you trust who back your opinion. A few well placed words at a drinks break or fall of wicket can gee a team up.
There are limitations to the 'rocket' though, so use it sparingly.
If you have a go at players too much it loses its effect as your team think 'here he goes again'. Generally encouragement and praise is more effective than a smack on the wrist.
This is especially true when a player makes a mistake. I played in a game recently where the philosophy of the captain was to admonish a player for their mistakes quite publically. He would shout at bowlers who dropped it short to pitch the ball up and told me off when I missed a run out from a poor throw. Admittedly I should have got the dismissal but it stung even more when I was treated like I had done it on purpose.
Nobody is trying to make a mistake and we all feel terrible when we do so.
I'm sure you know from your own experience how hard it can be to reset and focus on the next ball after you make a mistake. A captain can help his players feel better by making sure there are no recriminations when errors happen. If you go up to a player, pat them on the back and tell them they will get the next one it sends a message out and helps to build a better team.
This is doubled by applauding good work in the field too.
It's easy to forget to encourage players while you are thinking about field placing and bowling changes. That's where a good vocal keeper and/or senior players can keep your mind alert, chirping at the batters, supporting players who made mistakes and reminding you to congratulate good bowling and fielding.
Kidology and Enthusiasm
An exception to the general rule of encouragement is when a player responds better to a bit of hurt pride.
Mike Brearley is famous for getting more performance out of Ian Botham in the 1981 Ashes series by calling him names. This fired up Beefy. Keith Fletcher did the same thing to one of his seamers at Essex by telling the keeper to stand up to him.
The success of this strategy all depends on how a bowler reacts to your kidology. Some players will react more negatively so take care who you try this with and always use the tactic in an overall environment of positivity.
The final aspect to motivating players in the field is to keep them fighting until the last. A team with confidence will do this naturally, but it is easy to let your head drop when you see your side in a losing position with no clear way out.
You may already have played in a game that you snatched victory dramatically from the jaws of defeat. You only have to think back to the events of the 1981 Ashes series again to realise that almost any situation is recoverable with luck, skill and expert judgement. Instil this attitude into the players well and they will follow you.
It also helps to be the captain of a winning side. Strangely, motivation is much higher when you are achieving success!
In the next part of the series I go on to discuss how to choose the right bowlers at the right time. Click here to go to part two.
Photo Credit: gin soak
Want to be a better captain? Learn from the best with the interactive online course Cricket Captaincy by Mike Brearley.