I can't see the IPL time out catching on in club cricket. Yet strategy is a key part of the game at any level.
Cricket requires a lot of thinking. Conditions vary, different opposition players have wildly different strengths and weaknesses, and the game can change in the matter of a few minutes even after long periods of stalemate. Whether you are batting, bowling, fielding or captaining sometimes a 7 minute break might feel like exactly what you need to compose your thoughts.
Without the luxury of one, how do you think about these important things while also concentrating on performing your skills?
The secret is to combine the natural time you have with a subtle control of the pace of the game.
In the field
The key area of communication in the field is between the captain and his or her players. The bowlers, in particular, need to have 2 way conversation with their skipper to make sure the field matches the line and length the bowler is aiming for.
Often this can be simple. The captain knows already what the bowler is trying to do and sets the field to match with barely a word. However, either player could make a change based on a hunch that needs to be discussed. I feel the captain should always have the final say, but with empathy for the bowler.
For example, an away swing bowler may want a square leg just to feel safe even though the ball never goes there. Without one the bowler bowls poorly. The captain and bowler both need to know this so the pan can be adjusted to take account of such a quirk.
Discussions of this type can easily be done between balls and overs if needs be. However, there must always be a thought to how fast you are getting through your overs. This can often mean catching up by running between overs and generally getting on with things.
As part of this, the fielders need to keep eye contact with the captain as much as possible. This makes it easy for the skipper to move the field quickly. It also works the other way, with a quick gesture from the fielder to the captain suggesting a tactical change such as moving a bit deeper or closer against a certain batter.
The wicketkeeper has an important role in fielding communications too. There is the obvious, like keeping the field on their toes when a left hander is at the crease. There is also the less obvious such as adjusting a fielder to the correct angle and informing the captain about a bowlers pace, movement and bounce (the keeper is in the best position for both).
Batting communication is twofold. The easier of the two is the conversation between batsmen in the middle. The more difficult is communication between the captain and the batting partners from the sidelines.
Apart from clear calling, all batsmen should know to talk to each other between overs. This allows you to discuss the match situation and the tactics you are choosing. For example, telling each other who you think the poor fielders are can lead to extra stolen singles. It's also important to keep each other aware of your thinking as you cross for runs. A quick word as you pass such as "two there" or "push this fielder" can act as a timely reminder.
Batters an also protect each other's weaknesses by talking between overs. A slow runner may not be keen on quick singles or a bad player of spin might want to take the seamer as much as possible.
The captain on the sidelines has more trouble getting a message out. Not many club players need a change of gloves (or even own a second pair) so the top level tactic of sending the twelfth man out is rarely used.
Ideally players will work out themselves exactly what is needed. However it may not always be obvious. The captain might have a declaration target in mind for example. To shout and gesture from the boundary edge would give the game away. I have found the best tactic is for the captain to keep the batsmen primed for whatever plans they have beforehand and trust them to get on with it.
How do you keep the communication lines clear when you are playing?
Image credit: xgretsch
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