A close knit cricket team can't be faked.
You can have as many team nights out, boot camps or bonding sessions as you like. If there is no basic trust and understanding of responsibilities then the team will not gel, at least not in my experience.
Expertise from captains, coaches and senior players is required if a team does not come together naturally. Most players are cynical to traditional 'team building' techniques, even if they really want it to work.
One simple approach to doing this is to build a series of team rules based around working together.
- Bat in pairs. It's easy to get caught up in your own game, but you have a batting partner who you can help too. Talk between overs about tactics and doubts. Rotate the strike by talking about weak fielders or scoring areas. Before play set partnership run targets rather than individual ones.
- Field as a unit. Fielders are there to help bowlers bowl maidens and take wickets. Talk to fielders close to you between balls as to what the batsman are looking for. Aim to save as many runs as possible; perhaps setting a target of saves per innings. Be aware of the ball until it is dead and think 360 degree fielding all the time.
- Bowl 'focus balls'. When the captain or bowler calls 'focus ball' the team focus on making the ball a dot at all costs. Fielders up their body language and noise and tune back in if they have drifted off. The bowler aims to put the ball in the right place. This works well on the last ball of an over (especially a bad one).
- Bowl 'team maidens'. Two consecutive maidens count as a team maiden. This focuses bowlers and fielders on the effort of bowling twelve dot balls instead of just six. Fielders can encourage bowlers to bowl a team maiden while bowlers will feel more likely to bowl for the team rather than their own figures.
- Buddy up. Players who are friends off the field can carry their support of each other to the on field performance. If you see your buddies head drop or drift out of the game take responsibility to refocus them back on the game.
Of course, it's never as simple as it seems. Real trust only starts with written rules. There are too many unwritten factors that can disrupt the process: Difficult individuals, unfair treatment of players, lack of clarity of team roles, blame and a lack of recognition of success.
But at least this is a start, and something that most people can accept easily because it is cricket focused.
A sneaky but simple way to start building trust.
Photo credit: Holster
Want to be a better captain? Learn from the best with the interactive online course Cricket Captaincy by Mike Brearley.