Cricket club selection meetings always bring up controversy.
In every club that puts out more than one team, there is bound to be the fringe player who splits the committee. In my club this is especially true of young players looking to break into the first XI.
I’ve sat on selection committee all this season and one of the qualifiers for whether a player is given a chance or not is if he ‘looks like a first team player’.
I’ve heard it a few times this season, and while all the selectors all know what it means, I thought it was time to reveal what we are looking for in a player when selecting them for the firsts.
The idea being that it will inspire you to fit the template and move up a level.
1. Runs or wickets
As a selector, nothing talks to me more than bundles of runs or wickets in the 2nd XI.
You could have all the other qualities in spades, but if you can’t hit the ball off the square and get 0-70 off 10 every week you are never going to get picked, let alone stay in the side.
Conversely, you could have nothing else going for you except a batting average of 60 and a bowling average of 16.
Welcome to the firsts son.
Of course, to stay in the side you are going to need more. You are going to have to look and act the part too. You won’t last long in the team if you don’t have a few other qualities too.
At club and school level you can get away with a certain amount of bad technique as long as you have a method for scoring runs or taking wickets nobody really cares.
But look most selectors in the eye and they will grudgingly admit that the good technique player will get a better chance than the ugly one. It’s common sense; if you have a good technique you are improve your chances of performing well.
I’ve seen it in my own team where a young batsman was picked a put straight in the side up the order. This was despite at least 2 other players already in the side with a case for batting in his position, but he just looked better with his easy style.
You want him to succeed purely for the beauty of the game. That’s the power of good cricket technique. So take every chance to get yours as close to perfection as possible.
Nothing gets a selectors goat up more than a talented player who can’t commit to their cricket. They may say they want to do well, but then when a game is on they suddenly are not available.
Now, we all have busy lives and none of us are full time professionals, but to be considered as a serious player you have to be able to show some commitment.
Nobody is expecting players to come to every net session and be available for every game, but players who make the effort will always get a better chance. Ways you can do this are:
- Plan around game days: Avoid making arrangements for other things when games are on.
- Adjust your work: If you have to work on game or practice days, try and book them off.
- Tell your captain you want to move up a level and show him you are keen by coming to practice as often as you can.
- Find friends or team mates to have extra practice with.
- Ask the coach/captain for specific weaknesses in your game to work on.
There are two talented young seamers in my club: Both around the same age with decent pace and able to move the ball in the air or off the pitch.
One is a regular in the first team, the other spends most of his time in the seconds with the odd appearance at the top level.
The difference is mainly desire.
The regular first teamer wanted to make it. He cared. The guy stuck in the stiffs just likes playing cricket and doesn’t mind if it’s first, second or third eleven.
As a selector you are always going to prefer guys who want to be in the team with a passion. You know they want to cement a place in the side, that when they are there they will sweat blood and work their fingers to the bone, even when things are going wrong.
The impression of the guy who doesn’t care is that he will give up when the going gets tough. He won’t be bothered enough to try and make things happen for the team. He’s not the man you want to ‘go over the top’ with.
So if you really do want to play cricket, make sure your desire is known. Be frustrated with being stuck in the 2nd XI and don’t be afraid to tell people you are. It’s better to ruffle feathers with over-eagerness than to stay quiet and be overlooked.
As long as I can remember (and probably far longer than that), the better fielders have always got the selection nod first.
This is because a team always needs good fielders and so even if you fail at your main skill you can make up for it by fielding well. It also means you can be picked as an extra batsman or bowler and given a chance when you would have been overlooked otherwise.
The good news is that even if you are a poor fielder you can make big improvements.
Mainly this is through practice. The harder and longer you drill the better you get.
But it also means working on being an aware fielder.
The higher the level you play, the fitter you have to be.
You may say skill is more important and you would be right. There are plenty of relatively unfit players doing well in club and school cricket (even some in the professional game).
But if you are in the balance for selection and you are not as fast, agile or strong as the player in possession then you are going to find it all the harder to get in.
Similarly, if you are in the first team and have a bad run of form then a fitter player will breathe down your neck far more quickly.
So, get fit. You don’t need to become a bodybuilder, but a couple of sessions a week will improve your strength and power as well as reducing your chance of injury.
Have you got a good enough reason to not train?
In my view, most players can give themselves a run at playing first team cricket. The trick is to commit your body and mind enough to the task. It doesn’t have to dominate your life, but if you can be more committed, more passionate and fitter then you will be hard to ignore when you start putting in performances.
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