April 23, 2013

Unravelling the unravelling

How to deal with the lows as a team

Screaming fans, smiling faces, high fives, effective analysis, the regularity of clockwork - even if there is the occasional blip. This is what teams and players strive for, and ultimately what fans expect from the teams they support. Nobody said it was easy and if they did, they have probably never played sport, definitely not IPL cricket.

The variables of our great game stack the odds of success against the player. The importance of a toss, the nature of a pitch, the decision of an umpire, and the occasional ability of a ball to move or straighten can define what sort of a day a cricketer has. The best batsman in the world will have far more bad days than good, and the lot of a bowler is all too well known. Barring the elite few who have mastered this game, it's a constant struggle to come out on top. One thing that separates the good from the exceptional is their ability to handle these cycles, when the good days become as common as blue moons.

The team performance cycle is even trickier to deal with and a sterner test of character than a player's handling of his personal performances. With self-reflection and dealing with lapses in personal form (despite the variables mentioned), the subject remains constant and you manage to find a way of dealing with the highs and lows. Each guy is personally responsible and accountable for the choices he makes out there. Conversely, the team's performance is the sum of individual efforts, of which over 90% is beyond your personal control. It is the captain and the coach who are responsible for channeling and directing the group's effort, but within the group opinions on selection, batting orders, decisions and tactics may vary. When things are going well this responsibility unfolds without notice (and everyone's opinions are implicitly in sync with the decision makers); when things don't go well it has the potential to be a poison.

When a team finds itself on the rocky road of form, the captain has to show his real worth and be the catalyst to turn things around. It is not easy, but with the congested schedule the focus needs to shift quickly on to what lies ahead. Behind closed changing-room doors, performance reviews have to be honest while ensuring players don't lose any self-belief. The group's belief in the ability of the team must also be maintained. Inconsistent performances are often best remedied by consistent preparation and processes. Gauti [Knight Riders' captain Gautam Gambhir] is insistent on maintaining the energy levels that underlie intensity. Apart from that everyone is reminded to trust their natural ability and instinct, and to keep trusting each other.

Despite the best efforts of the captain, the coaches and all the support staff, the real change in fortune can only come from the foot soldiers - the players. It is easy to point fingers, to question tactics, to withdraw from the team goals and responsibility, to spread the poison. It is also easy to blame the variables, to seek solace in past glories, to bag and bury the mistakes, and to look forward to the end of the campaign. The secret to turning things around is to stay positive, to trust the processes and most importantly to trust each other. The senior players need to be consistent in their behaviour to ensure that the group remains calm. Everyone needs to buy in to avoid splintering within the group.

This tournament still has a very long way to go. By our own high standards we are disappointed by the start we have had and our inability to capitalise on some very favourable positions in some matches. It is unhealthy to harp on the past, but it is useful to look back for guidance. Of course certain things have changed, but we have a blueprint to consult for processes and attitudes. Last year's campaign should also serve as a good source of confidence. The calm and belief has not wavered one bit and we are in the right frame of mind to turn things around. The satisfaction of arriving at a destination by route of the rocky road can be greater than that which is got out of taking the smooth road.

Ryan ten Doeschate is an allrounder for the Netherlands and for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL

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  • Dummy4 on April 30, 2013, 5:50 GMT

    Ryan, your views are inspirational. You are right, in any situation we must keep our calm, have faith in ourselves and in our team/ friends, relatives, etc.. But one may not always spot the good things in a situation for whatever reasons. In this case we must try not to think negatively i.e., not getting upset by others or situations. And then we will be able to see the Whole situation n take right decisions not only for the team, but for ourselves too. Hope to read your next article soon.

  • thomas on April 24, 2013, 17:50 GMT

    How come Ryan has not gotten a single game-?? He is way better Marsh for Pune and some other foreign players for the weaker sides...

  • James on April 24, 2013, 15:58 GMT

    I think Ponting has plan 'B'. Maxwel is the best person to replace himl. Sorry, but Smith is not good to face the new ball.

  • Yogarajan on April 24, 2013, 13:21 GMT

    Its better KKR can releive him instead of wasting his talent rather than making him travel along the country. He is a cicketer not a travel guide. If released other teams like RR, KXI , SRH may need him. And one can come to know how really talented he is...

  • Dummy4 on April 24, 2013, 11:47 GMT

    Whom do we drop to accomadate RTD here? Senanayake,Narine,Kallis and Morgan. The droppable players are from the Indian contingent of the squad who are bleeding runs and are not able to score at the top. Tough decision i must say for the arrogant Gambhir. I guess he should learn the trick to blame the batting, bowling or fielding accordingly just the way Dhoni does instead of coming up with real excuses as to players need to finish the game.

  • Nirjhar on April 24, 2013, 11:40 GMT

    Sad that RTD does not get any game. While a great performer when given a chance he has to compete with Morgan and McCullum for a place with KKR. Brendan has won a few games single handedly against India, what of IPL and he is sitting out! He is the one to have got 158 in first IPL match and was in good form against England in the Test series.

    The foreign riches of IPL teams is amazing where Maxwell, Henriques, Mathews, Sangakkara, Sammy are unable to make it to the respective team despite the latter 3 being captains of national ODI/test teams.

    Henriques and Maxwell were amongst the better Aussie performers in India in the TEST series that they lost 4-0.

    I hope he gets a good contract next time. DD could have used him instead of KP/Ryder this year

  • Ahsan on April 24, 2013, 10:33 GMT

    I don't understand why IPL teams keep on overlooking players who belong to small cricket playing nations. Last year KKR did not play Shakib-Al Hasan from the beginning, they only brought him in the side when they were struggling, similarly with RTD, I don't know what the guy has to do. Whenever given a chance, he has impressed, he doesn't deserve to be warming a bench. He should be in a team like Rajasthan Royals, atleast they will utilise him there, unlike the superstart KKR team. Looking forward to see him play consistently this season.

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