One of the popular mantras from the "old heads" at my cricket club is,
"The problem is that you all went quiet in the field. You have to back the bowler!"
Every time we lose, especially batting first, that line comes out in some way or another. And it certainly seems like sensible advice.
But is it really?
Let's look at the evidence.
Everyone knows that these days a good fielding side work together to back the bowler. You clap, you cheer. You "ooh" and "ahh" when the ball beats the bat. You use well timed sledging to make the batsmen feel like he is taking on a beast with 11 heads.
When I coach I always throw in a line to the boys about encouraging the bowlers.
And as a 'keeper I am often the last to shut up with the encouragement myself. I feel like it's my job to be team cheerleader so the captain can hatch his plans in peace.
The idea behind this strategy is two-fold:
- It intimidates and distracts the batsman.
- It keeps the bowler going.
I have little doubt that a fired-up, enthusiastic side is capable of one or both of these. Think back to a time when you were on top. Wickets fell. The bowler was charging in. You felt like something was going happen nearly every ball. As a result you naturally had greater energy as a team.
But that is also the problem: The noise and enthusiasm came from the fact you were on top. Not the other way around. You can't pretend to be on top when the batting side are blasting you to all corners. So you "go quiet" and the sages on the sidelines make a mental note to criticise your efforts.
That's why you have to know there are times when "going quiet" is a right and proper response. It doesn't mean that you have given up on winning, simply that you are focusing on something more important than making a pointless noise.
When to Go Quiet in The Field
The best teams in the world don't win games through passion.
Passion is important, but it can also cloud the mind. The better teams know that winning is about making a plan then, without distraction, putting it into action.
And that takes a cold, calculating and icy approach that goes beyond shouting "come on lads" after every ball.
Say it's your strategy to squeeze a side out of the game bowling second. You are less interested in bowling them out than you are in drying up the runs so much that they can't keep up with the rate. What do you need to achieve that?
- Accurate bowling
- Well set fields
- Efficient fielding
- A touch of luck
Which one of those is improved by being loud in the field?
I'm going to go ahead and say that none of them.
Sure, a bowler might feel encouraged by hand clapping, but he will also feel supported by fielders who take catches, throw themselves into dives to save boundaries and back up the back up fielders: The unspoken code of teamwork.
My point is simple; it's far more important to be well drilled, calculating and efficient than it is to be loud. The latter springs from the former.
Of course, it's also possible to go quiet because you have indeed given up on trying to win. That is not acceptable unless you are truly out of the game (a rare moment). In this case, the team do need to do some artificial encouragement to each other. Remind everyone that it's not over until "the fat lady sings". Even if she is in the wings warming up, she's not showing her pipes yet. Let's get on with it.
The job of the captain, and coach - and even the old heads - is to recognise the difference between getting on with a job and giving up. Then to decide whether going quiet was a symptom of poor team support or just a matter of being focused on the important task of trying to win a cricket match.