When we see our heroes on the television screen, the likes of Smith, Cummins, Kohli, Williamson and Stokes, we often only see them as decorated members of their national team. It is easy to forget that even these exceptional individuals have had to climb up the rungs of the cricketing ladder, their unique talents perhaps allowing them to skip a few rungs. Every single player at the top level has played junior cricket, representative cricket, grade and first-class before reaching elite status. Having on-field ability is one thing, but being able to successfully integrate into multiple teams and earn the respect of coaches and teammates alike requires a completely different skill set.
With this in mind, here are some strategies players can use to move up the pecking order and gain maximum reward for the effort they are putting into their game!
1. ASK YOUR COACH WHAT STEPS YOU NEED TO TAKE TO GET TO THE LEVEL OR POSITION YOU WANT TO PLAY
Cricket doesn’t always appear, at first glance, as an overly ‘fair’ game. As a batsman, a poor LBW decision or a ball that hits a crack is all that it takes for you to spend the rest of an innings in the sheds. As a bowler, you may have catches dropped off your bowling, or likewise decisions not go your way.
Similar situations arise in internal club environments when players feel that they may not be receiving just reward from coaches for exceptional performances. This often occurs due to a lack of player/coach dialogue, preventing both parties from understanding each other's viewpoint. As ‘biased’ or ‘illogical’ as a team selection scenario may seem, coaches hold their positions for a reason and their opinions often consider things that you may not have thought of. It is for this reason that developing an honest and direct line of communication with coaches is critical.
By taking the initiative to seek coach feedback, you demonstrate a commitment to personal growth and humility to value the opinions of others. In return, by asking for help to achieve your goals you should receive clear direction which will guide the way. Coaches come from a position of great experience and expertise and will offer any advice with a player's best interests at heart, so their support is invaluable.
2. SHOW THAT YOU HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE AND TRAIN EFFECTIVELY
Progressing through the cricketing ranks and achieving goals isn’t just about increasing the volume of your training, but also training more efficiently. Once you have identified areas for improvement, either through seeking outside opinion or self-reflection, it is important to train these areas specifically to accelerate the improvement process.
If a batsman has identified a weakness against the short ball, do they simply spend an extra 20 minutes in the nets at training? No. Rather they should be incorporating drills that focus on the short ball into their regime. To acknowledge and address flaws in this way is key to development as a player. Further, it shows those around you that you are acutely self-aware and committed to improvement. It is the player who has a strong attention for detail in their preparation that gets noticed and ultimately is given the greater opportunity.
3. UNDERSTAND THAT IT TAKES TIME TO MAKE AN IMPACT, DON'T EXPECT RESULTS OR CHANGES STRAIGHT AWAY
Ambition to be the best and progress in cricket can often lead to impatience, however as they say, “patience is a virtue”.
Whilst players should always aim high and challenge themselves, it is also important to remember that time is necessary to adapt to higher levels of competition and sometimes you need to fail as a part of the improvement process. If you aren’t prepared to achieve your goals over a long period of time, then it is probably worth considering how committed you truly are to those goals.
Each progression through cricket requires players to start from a new base and build up a separate body of performances in order to then move to the next stage. This is why rather than focusing on one big innings or haul of wickets, players should look to develop consistency of performance that turns heads over time.
4. ALWAYS SHOW WILLINGNESS TO DO WHAT'S BEST FOR THE TEAM, TAKE ON ANY CHALLENGE THAT IS PRESENTED TO YOU!
Even at the top level of cricket, on the international stage, players have set roles. These roles e.g. death bowler and anchor batsmen are designed to take 11 individuals from different cricketing backgrounds and shape them to perform successfully as a team unit. Given this fact, you should be looking to embrace roles given to you at any point in your cricket journey, as experience doing this is beneficial both in the present and future.
The ability to be unselfish, adapt and put the team first is highly regarded amongst coaches and players alike as these individuals contribute to winning outcomes more often than selfish players who play for their average, no matter how talented they are. A team orientation also builds morale, as it shows respect and acknowledgement towards the teammates you spend all day on the ground with.
Taking on a variety of unique challenges provides important experience in an array of match situations so that when a narrow opportunity presents itself up the ranks you can be confident that you will adapt seamlessly to the role offered.
In summary, moving up the pecking order requires engagement, persistence and the ability to operate well in a team environment. These are mostly mental skills that can become second nature through repetition and regular reflection. Achieving a dream of playing state, T20 or international cricket, of course, requires technical skill, but it is just as much about personal discipline and embracing whatever cricketing environment you find yourself in at any time. Once you are able to channel a growth mindset, anything is possible!
Guest Author: Josh Nevett