Don't Panic: The Cricket Captain's Emergency Guide to Desperate Tactics
We have all been there: You stand in the field as everything falls apart around you. Your well laid plan is being laid to waste by rampaging batsmen. You look around the field for a change of bowling and realise you have already tried everyone.
What do you do next?
Don't panic. There is always something else you can try when everything is going wrong. It's the mark of a good captain who can stay calm and rally his troops in moments like this. So pass the pressure test and try one (or all) of these tricks:
Gamble on your strike bowler
I know you are saving your best bowler for the death. But right now you have a more pressing concern. The game is going away from you so you need to sacrifice long term planning for a short term change.
Bring your best bowler back and fire him up. If he is the sort who rises to a challenge then tell him he is your last, best hope for the game.
If the plan fails, you have lost nothing except some death overs. If it works, your best bet is to take him straight off again and go back to your master plan.
Leave a gap in the field
The batsman is smearing half volleys through the covers at will. Every bowler you tried gets the same treatment despite you packing the off side.
So get really crazy and take out cover altogether. Leave a yawning gap right where the batsman likes to put the ball.
The trick here is that you need to tell your bowler to get a line tight onto the stumps at a fullish length. If the batsman sees the gap, he will try to hit it even if the ball isn't quite there. The result is an edge behind (so you need at least one slip), or maybe bowled through the gate.
In short, use the batter's strength to cause a misjudgement. At worst you give away a couple of boundaries in your efforts. And let’s face it, you are already leaking those or you wouldn't be this desperate.
Slow the game down
If you feel the game is getting away from you, it's time to take a moment to stop and think. So, stroll over to your bowler and have a good long chat. Maybe it's tactical and he has an idea or two, but it can be about anything. The important point is to get the batsman chomping at the bit for the next ball.
A couple of aborted run ups and a "sore hamstring" can further add to the pressure. Before he knows it the batsman is so frustrated by the pace he has a swing at one that goes right down someone's throat.
Of course, you have to keep over rates in mind, but you are desperate and bringing a small element of control back is more important. It will help you think clearly at the very least.
Set a new target
Games can swing very quickly. You may be on top in one moment and three overs later you are wondering how you can possibly win. Everyone in the field needs to be constantly evaluating the plan and targets.
If your main plan has failed, and your backup plan isn't working, and the other idea has no effect, then reset again.
Maybe you drop your plan to something as simple as "we want three dots in a row". Make sure everyone knows that's what you want and are totally focused on that aim. My team have a shout of "team maiden" when we have bowled eight dots in a row that build pressure on the batsman.
Act on a ridiculous hunch
If you have slowed the game right down and still can't stop the flow, it's time to go "out of the box". Every team has the guy who has the insane ideas based on flimsy evidence. Go to that guy and take his advice.
Nothing is off the table at this point.
If the crazy idea fails then you can revert to a more sensible plan after an over or two. If it works, everyone will think you and "insane ideas guy" is a plain old genius.
Roll the "occasional bowler" dice
You know the guy who only ever bowls in nets and people laugh at him behind his back? He is dying to have a bowl. He knows in his heart you will never bring him on. Even the keeper has a better chance.
So, bring him on.
Chaos will ensue. And there is every chance he will get a wicket. Or get smashed for 26. Whatever. Something will happen. I know, I've seen it happen regularly.
Tell a joke
So far all these tactics have been a little bit mad and high risk. However, one tactic often overlooked is the ability to keep going in the face of an onslaught.
Most teams give up fast. If you can keep your players focused and relaxed, you can turn almost any bad situation around. So, tell some jokes. Get the keeper to do something stupid between balls; he won't need much encouragement. Hand the captaincy over to the youngest player in the team for two overs and take the role as team joker.
Perhaps that is not your style - although I would argue that's exactly the reason to do it - but that's OK. Someone in the team will be happy to take the team cheerleader role. Encourage them to act the fool and everyone unclenches enough to take a wicket.
Most of all though: Be lucky. You will need it.
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