Plans vs. hunches: What works best? | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Plans vs. hunches: What works best?

As the old saying goes, "Fail to plan and you plan to fail". What happens when plans don't pan out the way you want, and where does that leave the instinctive captain who works on hunches?

Take South Africa as an example. The one day side were criticised during the 2009 Champions Trophy for being too rigid in their plans. Critics pointed out that when Plan A failed, Plan B was... to keep trying plan A.

Does your team make the same error?

There is plenty of evidence that club sides do. Take the UK Club Twenty20 finals of 2008. The losing sides all shared the same mistake: They had a plan of pitching the ball up and bowling stump to stump. When the plan failed there were precious few variations. Slower balls and bouncers were barely seen.

Perhaps both Graeme Smith and the losing club captains would have been better to ditch the crafted plans and do something crazy instead. Let's look at the evidence.

The importance of planning

All good cricket sides work to a plan. The better teams have well developed plans. At club or school level this probably won't extend to video analysis of the opposition, but it does mean everyone knows about roles.

'Roles' is a simple way of saying that everyone in the team knows what they need to do. So the opening fast bowler might know his job is to bowl as fast as possible and take early wickets in a short burst. The medium pacer at the other end knows he has to balance out the expensive pacemen with a miserly spell. Each player also knows what everyone else should be doing.

The only way you are going to do that is by having a plan.

The power of the hunch

On the other hand, ask experienced captains about their finest moments and they will always think back to the flash of brilliance that was instinctive and outside the plan. Mike Brearley reveals several stories of instinctive captaincy in his online captaincy course.

It can't be random though, every good hunch is based in some kind of common sense, even if you are quite sure what it is when you act.

This 'think-on-your-feet' method works just as well (or badly) as elaborate plans, but only if you know what you are doing. As the old butcher said to the new butcher who was asking him how he could measure 2lb of meat without a scale: "My trick is being a butcher for 40 years".

But let's not make this a fight.

In reality we know that you need a plan, but you also need to be flexible enough to break away from the plan and go with your gut. The more experienced you become the better you get at knowing when to ditch things and try something new. Restricting yourself to either method is cutting off half your options.

image credit: PJMixer

Want to be a better captain? Learn from the best with the interactive online course Cricket Captaincy by Mike Brearley.


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