Captaincy - team selection
In the first of our series of articles about captaincy, we tackle team selection in the very imperfect world of amateur cricket!
At best, captaincy is one of the most joyful things in cricket to be a part of. At worst, it's frustrating, disheartening, embarrassing and could potentially lead to a captain making more enemies than friends. In this series of articles, we will dissect the various facets of cricket captaincy, and what it means to an amateur cricketer.
Team selection is one of the toughest parts of cricket captaincy, at an amateur level. In a perfect world, a captain would select whomever they wanted in their team. For those of you who've read books like "The Art of Captaincy" by Mike Brearley, you would select not only your most skilled 11, but your toughest and most characterful bunch, with the balance of 5/5 (five bowlers, five batsman) for a good pitch and 4/6 for a bad pitch.
But in our world, it doesn't quite work like that. Well actually, it really doesn't work like that. If you're the captain of the 1st XI at a club, you will have the pick of the players, but you also will have the following to contend with, which are usually only reserved for amateur cricket:
- People who "refuse" to be dropped
- People who think that adults should take preference over juniors
- People who's husbands, wives or other types of partner have strongly suggested that said cricketer possibly should be doing something else that day
- Talented idiots
So it's not really so simple: even as a 1st XI captain, selection can be a complete nightmare. Do you play the grumpy full-membership playing person over the promising and polite 15 year-old? Do you ban the hungover from the next game even though you know you're going to be short because of holidays? Do you play the talented idiot even though he's likely to rile the opposition up so much it will mean having a drink with them afterwards will be very awkward indeed?
Add to that, the "joy" of being a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th XI captain who has exactly the same problems magnified by the number of teams "above" them.
But forgetting all that, you still need to pick XI players. So what can you focus on?
A balanced side is more important than anything. For a league game (5-6 hours or 90-100 overs) you must have the following:
- Two genuine opening batsman
- Two genuine opening bowlers (of any type, but must use the new ball effectively and be two of your best, most consistent bowlers)
- A genuine wicket keeper
So that's five players. The other six could be anybody, but preferably 3 or 4 batsmen and 2 or 3 bowlers.
Most amateur cricketers hate playing spin. That should be as used a cliche as "it's a game of two halves". They really do. If you've got any sort of spinner in your team and the opposition haven't, you will instantly have an advantage. The accurate "Flat Jack" type of spinner can be incredibly useful to put pressure on a batsman. The "spins it loads but serves up a 4-ball per over" type can be just as useful, but in a different way - when wickets are at a premium, this type of bowler is perfect. And hey, they might have a good day!
Genuine pace is a threat to most amateur batsman. Some batsman thrive on it, but not many below 1st XI level. Similar to the "4-ball per over" genuine spinner, some captains will see them as more trouble than they're worth, but surely it is alway better to have the option. Particularly when trying to dislodge a stubborn tail-ender or two to win a match.
The bowler who puts "6 on the spot". The batsman who doesn't get easily flustered. These are invaluable. As a captain you cannot really control what your players do. These are the sorts of players that you wouldn't want to do that with anyway. Just toss this player the ball or send them out to bat and let them "do their thing". After all, alot of captaincy is about "control".
The wicket keeper
Finally, the genuine wicket keeper should be regarded with as much importance as any bowler or batsman. Good wicket keepers get you wickets and keep runs to a minimum. Bad wicket keepers can be very entertaining, but don't really contribute much else...
So as with everything in captaincy, control what you can, don't stress about what you can't. Selection is never fun. Don't expect it to be!
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