Cricket is a team sport and it is the teamwork that wins matches. Yes, individual talent is important but, as they say, there is no ‘I’ in a team and it is only that ‘team’ that provides a perfect platform for the talent to flourish. And the best teams are the teams that win. But how do you know which is the winning combination?
Sport is funny. One second a player might be revered and religiously loved but then the other minute he might have a pig’s head being thrown at him. And cricket is no exception. When the team wins it is all cherry and vanilla but when it’s down and out every walking individual has an opinion and can play better than the professionals. Losses lead to a blame game, a flurry of excuses and of course change, changes in the batting line-up, changes in the bowling attack, changes in the management or even changes in the medical staff. And one kind of tactic that has become an integral part of modern day cricket is the change in the batting positions.
These days’ teams keep on experimenting with their batting line-up, take for example Australia’s test skipper Steve Smith who said before the Ashes that he might drop himself to number 4 in the batting order in order to get the best out of the team. The current English cricket team is also a classic example of such rotational policies. Looking at the home front we have Rahane and the question of the number 3 position. But does making a player play at different positions actually reap benefits for a team?
Arguably this practice is like the two sides of a coin, it has its good as well as bad aspects. But more often it hampers the game of a cricketer. The constant jostling and changing of the batting order does not allow the batsman to find his feet. There is no consistency as to where he will play and that affects his game because each batting position requires a different style of play and a different mindset. Thus because of this constant shuffling, a players position in the team is jeopardised and given the multitude of cricketing talent in the academies there is always a new young guy ready to take their position. This in turn adds an additional pressure to perform at the top level.
Taking a tactical decision and changing the lineup in the middle of the game to suit the team’s tactics is a totally different concept, but similar to the rotational policy it’s a gamble that may or may not pay off. But it’s a tactic particular to one match and not a regular habit and also does not hamper a player’s confidence. So for the long life of players in their teams it’s important to address their strengths and play them at those strengths and not make them gypsies going from one position to another.