How "Team Targets" Improve Your Cricket (and Your Team Mates Too)
We all know how important setting targets is to cricket success, but most of us focus on individual aims and forget that teams can set targets too.
Setting 'team targets' is just as powerful in motivating players to do well because - like individual goal setting - a realistic and achievable target focuses the mind.
Cricket has teams within teams (batsmen get the runs, bowlers take the wickets, fielders help the bowlers) and working with your sub-team colleagues works better when you all have the same goal.
The easiest batting target is the score the opposition has set. Everyone can easily see how many you need to cross the line.
But even with this, you can break it down to something a bit more realistic.
Set the openers a target for the first 5 overs, and keep batting partners setting 5-10 over targets through the innings to keep the overall target in sight.
If you are batting first you can also set a "top 6 target". That is to say, the number of runs you want the batsmen in your team to score. This can help focus the mind and prevent the common assumption that "someone else will get the runs".
However, total targets can go horribly wrong. So be careful.
We call it "scoreboard pressure". If you feel you are behind the rate and don't know how to catch up you panic. So, it's helpful to go over some old scores and see how your team does. You can look at batting averages and likeliness of scoring a 50 or taking 5 wickets of individual players to build a picture of what might happen with any given team.
If you want to get super granular, you can break it down to game phases even more. How does the reliable slow-scoring opening pair getting 20 in the first 12 overs influence the overall total compared to going out with pinch hitters who leave you on 60-3 in the same time frame?
You can do the same for singles and boundaries sored.
Ask yourself how these elements influence the results of your games. If you see a trend, target that area in as small and reachable steps as you can manage, and let the result look after itself.
However much you analyse, go to the game with some easy targets like "100 in the first 30". Leave scope for variations like the opposition bringing in a star bowler, an bad pitch or your best batsman getting injured in the warm up. Reset where needed and get on with it.
One of my favourite rules of thumb in the 50 over matches I play is at the 30 over mark.
I know that usually, if the opposition need about 80 runs it's going to be a close finish. If we need 4 wickets we should bowl them out. So my target is to manipulate the opposition to be 6 down at the 30 over mark.
On a more short term basis, you can use team maidens. Here your bowlers attempt to bowl 12 dot balls in a row to put a lid on a scoring rate. Most club batsmen can't go more than a few balls without hitting out and making a mistake.
Fielders can support this by aiming to keep a "clean sheet" during the team maiden and preventing quick singles from releasing the pressure.
The key with team targets is to remember that within the bigger game, there are many smaller games going, and goals help you keep track of what is really happening much more closely than just looking at the overall runs and wickets column.
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