The Jubilee Book of Cricket/Chapter 5
Captaining an eleven is nothing more nor less than leading men in a particular sphere—the cricket-field. And to be a good captain, a man must first of all have the natural gift for leadership—which is probably an inborn quality synonymous with force of character—and then be able to apply this gift to the requirements of cricket. It has often been remarked that the ideal captain has yet to appear. No wonder; for something more than human is needed to discharge all the duties of the post. They are many-sided and complex—social, moral, intellectual, and practical. No one can fulfil them adequately without being a good man and a good cricketer—a good cricketer not so much in the sense of being able to do great feats with bat and ball, as in that of having a thorough knowledge of the game and a proper feeling towards it. A captain, too, should be a judge of nature as well as of cricket, for he has to deal with men as well as with the game. He must have a discriminating eye for physique and temperament as well as for weather and wickets. Tact, resource, readiness, decision, an even temper, enthusiasm, and the power of inspiring it in others—all are necessary. And a captain must have that confidence in himself which, founded on fact, compels the confidence of those under his command. Above all, he must lead and not be led; otherwise he is no captain at all, but a figurehead.
That the post is no sinecure may readily be understood. It involves much responsibility and many cares and annoyances. When things go well people take it as a matter of course; when they go badly the captain is the butt of all criticism: one hears it said so often during a cricket season that this or that match was lost by bad captaincy, but very seldom that a match was won by good captaincy. To a certain extent this is in accordance with facts, for bad captains are as common as good ones are rare. But there are many very fair captains who deserve much more credit than they get for conducting the affairs under their charge satisfactorily. Those who feel disappointed at not being appreciated must console themselves by remembering that ingratitude is the way of the world, and with the consciousness of having done their duty by themselves and their side. Every time they bring their ship safely to harbour they must be content with the satisfaction of having accomplished what was required of them. The troubles and anxieties of the voyage being known only to those who have suffered them, naturally do not strike others very forcibly. When all dangers are safely passed people are inclined to forget that the sea is not always smooth nor entirely free from rocks and shoals.
For obvious reasons many of the qualities most desirable in a captain are the result of experience of cricket and the world. But the possession of them depends less upon the time a man has lived and played cricket than upon how much he has observed and thought. Given two men with equal powers of observation and thought, the one who has played the longest will naturally know the most. But there are many cricketers who have grown grey in the service of the game who are astonishingly ignorant about it. For there are many people who have eyes to see and do not see Of course it is remarkably easy to criticise, and exceedingly difficult to do as well as those whom one criticises. What needs emphasising is, that more may be learnt in one match with the eyes open than in a hundred with them shut. As a matter of fact, most good captains are cricketers of some standing, but it is worth noticing that many of the very best have been comparatively young.It would be absurd to expect a boy at school to be a really good captain, for he cannot in the nature of things have had enough experience. But no more can he be expected to be a finished batsman or bowler. Yet there is no reason why a boy should not set about acquiring such qualifications for captaincy as he can, just in the same way as he learns the art of batting and bowling; especially since many of the qualities essential for captaincy will stand him in good stead in other departments of life than the cricket-field. A school captain is generally chosen by the authorities of the school from among the elder boys. At the larger schools he is frequently the senior member of the eleven of the year before, provided he be sufficiently high in the school.
From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.
The duties of a captain vary somewhat according to the kind of match in which his side is engaged, and to the kind of club which has elected him. To begin with, first-class cricket, including representative M.C.C., county, and university matches, is quite different from any other—partly because the results are universally regarded as more important, partly because certain obligations towards the spectators have to be taken into consideration. The last point applies equally to any match which people pay to come to see. Again, school cricket is quite different from ordinary club cricket, and both of them from country-house cricket.
With regard to gate-money matches. The captains of the two sides engaged are during the match responsible for everything in connection with it. They are under an obligation to the public to see that the match is played in such a way as the public has a reasonable right to expect. Play should begin punctually at the advertised hour; the luncheon interval, and the interval between the innings, should not exceed the orthodox length of time; and stumps should not be drawn or the match abandoned before the time arranged, unless circumstances make it absolutely necessary.
In all matches the results of which are regarded as important by a large number of people, the captains, as responsible for the conduct of the matches, ought to see that every effort is made to bring the games to a right and proper conclusion. For instance, in a county match it might easily happen that by stretching a point an eleven which had no chance of being champion county might give a much-needed victory to an eleven which had an excellent chance of being top. Before stretching this point, a captain ought to consider very carefully how far he is under an obligation to the other counties interested not to give away a match that could be saved, even though his own sportsmanlike instincts impel him to allow a side which has outplayed his to have an actual instead of a merely moral victory.
A school captain is concerned not only with the conduct of a particular match, as an ordinary club captain is, but with the cricket welfare of the whole school. He has to see that cricket is played properly, and with a view to the production of good cricketers, not only in the upper but in the lower games. He should know exactly what is going on everywhere; and as he cannot possibly be continually on a round of visits, he should be very careful to delegate authority to fit persons. He receives the traditions of the school as a trust for a year, or perhaps two, and his duty is to hand them on brighter than before, or at least unsullied.
A university captain has a similar trust, and is under like obligations to regard himself not only as the captain for the year, but as responsible in certain ways to the past and future members of the university club. He also has the very important duty of selecting the eleven to represent the university in their great match; whereas in most cases a captain is aided by a selection committee, who share with him the responsibility of choosing between rival candidates for places. An ordinary club captain may or may not have various responsibilities, but they are usually confined to winning matches as they come. In country-house cricket a captain's chief duty is to let every one have a bowl and make the match a social success. Let us, then, take a broad and typical view of what a captain has to do in order to fulfil the requirements of his position. His duties may be divided under three heads: his duty to himself, his duty to his opponents, and his duty to his own side. The first two heads do not need much elaboration. A captain's duty to himself consists mainly in being the captain, and not one of several. He may ask advice, and follow it or not, as he thinks fit. But he ought to make it clear that gratuitous advice is not wanted. It only hampers and muddles him: three men make a hash of driving if two hold one rein each and another manages the whip. Variegated suggestions coming from all quarters are as likely as anything to completely ruin all chances of victory.
As for listening to the criticisms of irresponsible spectators or pavilion cricketers, or giving a single thought to them, it is out of the question. A captain must have confidence in himself, must merit it from his side, and insist on receiving it.
With regard to his opponents. On his own ground a captain, as the highest executive officer of the club, is to a certain extent in the position of a host. He should see that the visiting side is properly treated, and their comfort consulted as far as possible. He should show a regard for them by welcoming them on their arrival, and bidding them good-bye when they go. And he should take every means in small ways to make the match as pleasant as possible for them. But, above all, he should do as he would be done by. He should remember that the liberty of his own side ends when that of the other begins. He need not abate one jot or tittle of his legal rights, but he certainly ought not to take an unfair advantage in any way. I would even go so far as to say that a captain should disclose any peculiarities of his ground that might handicap the adversaries if ignorant of them. For instance, if he knows that a heavy roller is bad for the particular wicket, he ought to tell the opposing captain his opinion on the subject, so that the latter may not act in the dark. This may be going rather far; but at any rate he should be open and above-board in all his dealings. It is a sad sight to see one captain watching another as a cat does a mouse, for fear of his being up to some trick or other. At the same time, no captain should allow himself to be put upon or humbugged. Here his duty to his own side begins; for he is, among other things, the guardian of their rights and interests.
It has already been hinted that a captain's duty towards his club depends upon what kind of club it is. It also varies somewhat according to what other officials, such as secretaries and managers, are associated with the captain, what departments they are deputed to look after, and how far they carry out what they are supposed to do. Circumstances differ considerably. In some cases a captain finds that he need not trouble his head about anything but the management of his eleven during matches; in others, that unless he is continually supervising all matters connected with the ground, pavilion, and players, much that ought to be done is left undone. In either case, the captain should have a working knowledge of all that is going on, so that he may be always in a position to observe and correct what is not as it should be. Strictly speaking, a captain ought to have nothing to do except lead the eleven in the match; but at the same time it is quite impossible to lead an eleven satisfactorily unless the many matters outside matches, but distinctly accessory to them, are properly arranged and adequately carried out. If other people manage such things properly, well and good; otherwise the captain must see that they are done, because they affect the side that plays under him and for which he is responsible. The attendance and care of dressing-rooms and the pavilion generally, the luncheon arrangements, the press accommodation, the scoring-boxes, the roping off the ground, the placing of screens, the preparation of match- and practice-wickets, the fixing of nets, the marking out of creases, and numerous other details, must be looked after by some central authority. Such matters are rarely properly attended to unless the subordinates who have the care of them are fully aware that there is some one who knows how and when each thing ought to be done, and who will notice if anything is not done as it ought to be. Now, whether some other official actually sees to such things or not, the captain ought to be in a position to deal with them if need be, because he is the representative both of the eleven which takes part in matches and of the committee or club management, which is the general executive and administrative power of the club as a club. He is somewhat in the position of a general commanding in the field between the army and the War Office.
However, it is time to consider the duties of a captain purely as a leader of ten cricketers in a cricket-match. But before treating this in detail there is one point to mention. It is absolutely essential that in whatever way his eleven are chosen, whether by a deputy committee or by a separate selection committee or otherwise, the captain should have a very large share—in fact, the chief share—in the selection of men to play under him in matches. In the first place, he is the person most directly affected by the selection; and in the second, he is in by far the best position to know what is required. Onlookers may see most of the game in one sense, but it is quite impossible for the best judge of the game to know exactly what is going on in the field unless he himself is playing. A good captain has his eyes continually open, and is in close contact with his side. He ought to know the ins and outs of matters far better than any one else, and does if he is worth his salt. What is more, he is continually on the spot; his chain of observations is unbroken: whereas an ordinary committee may be sometimes on the spot, sometimes not; and even if they see all that happens while they are on the spot, which is morally impossible from the pavilion, they only have partial data on which to form judgments. Selection committees are useful institutions, because discussion often throws new light upon things, comparisons of opinion frequently extract the truth, and in many ways several heads are better than one. But in cases where a captain has decided views, for which he can give good reasons, upon the inclusion or exclusion of a player or players from the eleven, his position should be accepted as the last word in the matter. A captain can hardly be expected to do the best for and with his side if it includes men whom he is sure ought not to be playing, while 6thers who ought are condemned to be spectators.
A captain's duties during a match may be divided into those which precede the actual commencement of the game, those which fall to him when his side is fielding, and those of which he should be mindful while his side is batting. The second division is by far the most considerable, important, and difficult. The three together, apart from the mere question of the power of leading men, which has already been touched upon, involve a complete knowledge of the game of cricket as a whole and in its parts. Perhaps the best way to deal with the subject is to take the various points in the chronological order of an actual match.
Let us, then, suppose that the eleven has been selected, and each member precisely instructed as to the time and place of the match.It is always advisable for every one to turn up in good time before play begins, especially on the first day of a match; for nothing is more liable to upset a man and put him off his stroke than being bustled or hurried. But a captain should make a particular point of being on the ground, if he can, at least an hour before the time of starting. On the first day of a match this is
From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.
Of these preliminary duties of the home captain, the first is to cast an eye round with a view to being quite sure that all necessary arrangements have been made. At first this may be rather troublesome, but after a little experience a captain soon learns to know exactly where to expect deficiencies. He ought to take particular notice that everything has been done for the comfort of the members of the visiting side, whether amateur or professional, and for the other members of his own side. Such forethought oils the wheels, and helps much towards matters running smoothly. A very little attention and trouble can entirely obviate the many small annoyances which are liable to mar the pleasure of a cricket-match. It requires only a mere glance to see that a sufficient number of chairs are in the changing-room, and that there are sponges and towels in the lavatory; and less than half a glance to see whether the room is tidy and habitable. Later on, it is advisable for him to see the visiting captain and some members of his side, welcome them, and show them any small courtesies that may come to mind. It is a most charming thing for a visiting side to feel that it has been expected, and its well-being taken into consideration. Then it is well for him to see that all the members of his own side arc on the ground ready to start play at the proper time, and to give any of them who may desire it a chance of speaking to him. Nothing makes more for the harmony and good feeling between his side and the captain, which are the best guarantee of corporate efficiency, than that he should show a personal interest in them all, amateur and professional alike. It is a fundamental error in handling and leading men to regard and treat them as mere automatons. Men are no automatons, and should not be treated as such. To treat a man as an automaton is the best way to make him one, and an automaton is precisely what is not required as a cricketer, A cricketer eleven at variance internally or with its captain is a miserable affair, and sure to play quite a different game from one which is unanimous and works together.
Cohesion between the members of a team depends largely upon the captain's wise and tactful sympathy. The next point is more practical, and has a decided bearing upon the fortunes of particular matches. A captain, whether on his own ground or another, should make it a rule to go and inspect thoroughly the wicket on which the match is to be played, in order that he may be in a position, should he win the toss, to decide whether to take first innings or give it to his opponents. A not too hastily formed judgment about the state of the wicket will also help him considerably in his choice of bowlers. It may be remarked incidentally that the more points a captain thinks out calmly before a match begins, the better is he likely to succeed in his management. A preconcerted plan of action is exceedingly helpful, even though circumstances may arise that make alterations and modifications advisable. It is a mistake to go into the field with only vague ideas as to the best course to pursue: to trust to the inspiration of the moment, as a guide to action, generally leads to blunders and omissions.
A piece of well-rolled, closely mown turf, such as forms the area where wickets are pitched on good cricket-grounds, looks very innocent and guileless. As a matter of fact, few things in the world are more deceptive.
No two pieces of turf are exactly alike, however similar tbcy may appear. The quality of the undersoil and drainage, as well as that of the tuff itself, differs in almost every case. The result is that, given absolutely similar conditions of weather, no two grounds behave in exactly the same way.
Moreover, it is by no means easy to be sure of the behaviour of a particular piece of turf on separate occasions, under conditions that apparently are absolutely identical. The external circumstances which affect the state of a cricket-ground are chiefly rain and sun. And it is difficult to calculate exactly what damp or heat is doing. Nothing but experience and observation can qualify a captain to be a judge of the states of grounds. He should make a point of studying this question as thoroughly as he can.
The chief difficulty to deal with is the effect of rain upon wickets. Wet grounds are the puzzle. When the ground is hard, a captain has no alternative but to take first innings; for whether hard and true, rough, fiery, or crumbled, a dry wicket will almost certainly not improve, and is very nearly sure to deteriorate. The only case where an improvement is likely to take place is when the ground starts by being fiery or crumbled, and exactly the right amount of rain falls to take out the fire, so that it rolls out smooth and true. But it is quite impossible for a captain to know beforehand to a nicety what the weather is going to do, so he cannot afford to expect such improvement. A dry wicket must always be regarded as at its best in the first innings of a match, and as likely to deteriorate with the wear and tear of the play upon it.
In calculating the effect of rain upon a wicket, three points must be taken into consideration: first, the state of the ground previous to the fall; secondly, and in connection with this, the amount of rain and sunshine that comes subsequently; and thirdly, the usual behaviour of the particular ground under certain conditions.
About the last point nothing can be learned except by continually observing particular grounds or consulting those who are in the best position to give advice—groundmen, for instance, or experienced professionals engaged at the ground. Advice from similar sources may also be useful on the first point. Yet a captain, if he has not had personal experience of the state of the ground by playing on it during the few days preceding a match, can generally find some one who has either played a game on part of it or practised at the nets. It is, however, worth while remarking that very frequently the centre of a ground where match-wickets are pitched is quite different from the side parts where smaller matches and net-practice take place.
The state of a wicket at the time of a match depends, as has been pointed out, upon the prevailing conditions of weather acting upon the previous condition of the ground. Dry wickets do not concern us at present Wet wickets are of several kinds. After rain has fallen, a wicket must in the course of nature be becoming dryer. Only, if there is no sun or wind to help in the process, a wicket once thoroughly soaked dries so slowly that, as far as a cricket-match is concerned, it may be regarded as in a fixed state of dampness. But before considering wickets that are thoroughly soaked, a few words are necessary on the subject of those that are merely damp on the surface.
These are of two kinds. The first is when the ground is merely greasy on the top, like a slab of slate swilled over with a mop; the second when the turf is wet for a couple of inches or so on the top, but quite dry underneath.
A wicket that is greasy on the top does not cause the captain much difficulty. It is essentially a batsman's wicket, for it is in a way more true than one that is hard and dry. The ball keeps quite straight upon it, since it cannot possibly bite the ground, which offers the least possible frictional resistance. In addition to this, the bowler is probably much handicapped by the fact that the ball soon becomes wet and greasy itself, so that he cannot get a proper grasp of it to impart spin. The ball, perhaps, comes along faster from the pitch than when the wicket is in any other state, and this is all that the batsman need fear. Notice that bowlers can get a perfectly good foothold on such a wicket. It is the result of a shower or a very slight drizzle upon a wicket that was previously hard, dry, and true. The process of drying, which, as will be shown, is the disturbing element in states of wicket, does not in any way affect the batsman. As the top dampness disappears, the wicket resumes its former state.
A wicket that is wet to the depth of a few inches is different. It is the result of a somewhat heavier fall of rain upon a hard, dry wicket. Usually a sudden downpour which lasts long enough to soak in a few inches, but not to thoroughly sink into the ground, produces such a wicket. The water suffices to make the wicket damp and soft to a very slight depth, and is then exhausted. While this wicket is still damp the ball usually cuts through, and consequently keeps quite straight and simple. Occasionally, however, the ball will bump somewhat. If the sun shines strongly directly after the rain, the ground may be very sticky and difficult for a short time, but only for a short time, as the moisture is very quickly absorbed, and the ground becomes hard and true again. On the other hand, if it dries slowly, without the sun's emphatic aid, the ground passes from the cutting-through stage to a slow stage, and then gradually back to a dry state. During this slow-drying process the ball is liable to come at different paces off the pitch, sometimes cutting through and whipping along first, sometimes hurrying or rising slowly. But the transitional state is in any case brief, and two good batsmen are quite likely to last out until the danger is past. So it is not a wicket to put the other side in upon, except as a daring experiment. A captain with a strong bowling and weak batting side, opposed to a side strong in both respects, may be inclined to agree that as he cannot win by his batting, his bowlers ought to have every chance. If he can let his bowlers have a go upon the wicket during its brief stage of difficulty, they may get rid of three or four dangerous batsmen; but the experiment is hazardous, because if the other side manage to tide over the difificult stage their position becomes doubly strong, in that they have the first and third innings, instead of the second and fourth—a great advantage, as will be shown later. However, it would be absurd to say that the risk should never be taken by a side that may win thus, but is extremely unlikely to win anyhow else. A bold policy so often meets with its reward that one can hardly bring oneself to discourage it. In any case, a captain must make quite sure of his facts and exactly understand what he is doing. He must be certain of his bowlers, and certain that they will have a distinct chance of getting wickets rapidly should things go well. Otherwise it is foolhardy rather than bold to relinquish first innings, especially as bowlers are likely to be bothered by not being able to get a proper foothold, and by having to use a wet, heavy ball.
Really wet wickets are the result either of heavy and continuous rain upon any kind of wicket, or of frequent showers upon a ground already fundamentally damp.
Some grounds are famous for their dryness and the rapidity with which they harden after rain; others are notorious for their constitutional dampness and the length of time they take to recover from a sodden state. These differences must always be taken into consideration in dealing with them. A wicket that has been thoroughly soaked may do three things. It may remain wet and sodden for three whole days or longer, owing to the general dampness of the atmosphere, its own reaction upon itself, and the absence of sunshine or a wind. Remember, nothing dries a ground more rapidly and equally than a wind. Or it may grow dry gradually but surely all through by the aid of wind, gentle sunshine, and general atmospheric dryness. Or it may dry with extraordinary rapidity on the top owing to bright, strong sunshine, so that the top becomes first sticky, then baked, while the ground underneath remains wet.
As long as the ground remains wet and sodden all through, it is very difficult to bowl on and very easy to bat on. In fact, it is probably the easiest, though not the pleasantest, to bat on. Some batsmen prefer such wickets to any others. Big scores are not frequent on grounds in this state, simply because the ball comes rather dully off the pitch, and is consequently not so easy to hit hard, and because when hit it travels slowly and with difficulty along the dead ground, and the fieldsman can easily get to it to prevent boundaries. Hence a run is worth more on such a wicket than on a hard one. But the ball is very easy for a good batsman to control and keep from the wicket under these conditions. There is no doubt that they favour batsmen, though sometimes sides collapse when a wet wicket suddenly occurs after a series of dry ones. It is not the wicket that causes this, but the change.
A wicket that dries slowly and equally may be described as neutral. It does not favour either batting or bowling. But it may be described as easy rather than otherwise. The bowler can get a fair foothold, hold the ball fairly well, and get a moderate, even large, amount of break on the ball. But the ball does its work so slowly that a batsman can easily watch and play it, even if he cannot score with rapidity. The point to see is, that it is not a bowler's wicket, though it is frequently mistaken as such both by captain and others, simply because they see that the ball can be made to break.
It is the sticky or caked wicket that is the bowler's paradise. The ball can be made almost to speak on such a one by a skilful bowler, and even a moderate performer can prove very destructive. When a wicket is in this state, a captain's point of view is that it cannot get more difficult and may get easier; so he has a very good excuse for putting the other side in. The only drawback is, that this condition of ground is very likely to prevail for some time—long enough for four short innings—so that by putting the other side in, a captain takes away from his own the advantage of batting first and second instead of third and fourth, without gaining any compensating advantage. So, even with a sticky wicket, it is advisable not to be too ready to give up first innings.
It will be seen that the whole question of whether it is better to go in or let the other side do so hinges on the understanding that it is distinctly advantageous to bat first. That it is advantageous is regarded as an axiom of cricket. No one thinks of disputing it. A few considerations are sufficient to establish the point. The two chief are, that the side which goes in first is almost sure to get the best of the wicket, and that it is much easier to prevent runs than to make them. With regard to the first consideration, it is quite obvious that unless the weather plays tricks a wicket cannot but be truer and better in the first than in the second, and in the third than in the fourth, innings of a match. Now, the weather plays extraordinary pranks sometimes, so that there are occasions when it proves an advantage to have lost the toss, and bat second. But this consideration is absolutely beside the point, as no captain can divine the future, and has to decide before the match is played, not during it, whether to take the innings or not. There is no course open to him except to regard present circumstances as they are, and take it for granted that the weather will not prove contrary. The reason why wickets gradually deteriorate during matches is manifest. Every ball that is bowled knocks the turf about in a greater or lesser degree, and every time a batsman or bowler plants his foot on the actual pitch some damage is done to it. This is what is meant by the wear and tear of a match. But there is another reason, which is sometimes forgotten. Match-wickets are very carefully prepared for some time before they are used. A wicket to be used on Monday has probably received attention—judicious watering and rolling—since the Monday before, and that daily. But after the first ball has been bowled the wicket may not be touched again till the match is over, except for the slight rolling it receives just before each innings, which rarely makes much difference to it. Consequently it does not get its daily treatment either on the first, second, or third day of a match, and it misses this treatment much in the same way that a human being would miss his proper amount of food and drink for three successive days. In any case, it is a matter of experience that wickets do deteriorate in a greater or lesser degree during matches. Given normal conditions, the first innings affords the best, the fourth the worst, chance of getting runs. It is no exaggeration to say that three out of four games between fairly equal sides are won by the one that goes in first, through the score made in their first innings. And, what comes to the same thing, the average number of runs made in the second innings in matches is considerably lower than that made in the first. The same holds good with regard to the relative scores in fourth and third innings.
The second consideration that makes it advantageous to bat first is, that runs are harder to make than to save. And the case is this. A run is more difficult to make than to save, because batting is in its nature a far less certain and reliable thing than bowling and fielding. A man who really makes up his mind to bowl or field as well as ever he can, is able to do so with something like certainty, whereas the best bat in the world cannot make sure of scoring a single run. In other words, batting is, besides being more difficult in itself than bowling and fielding, far more subject to chance. A bowler may bowl a bad ball or a fielder drop a catch without losing all chance of retrieving himself. One bad stroke, and a batsman is out once and for all. Of course batsmen often have good luck in being missed in the field or being beaten by the ball without being bowled; but this does not—at any rate on the average—equalise the chances. A bowler can without doubt be much surer of bowling a good ball, a fielder of catching a catch, than can a batsman of keeping a ball out of his wicket or scoring a run off it. Now the disproportionate value of a run in hand and a run to be made is greater in the fourth innings than in any other, for the simple reason that batsmen on the one hand, and bowlers and fielders on the other, have a definite undertaking before them. The definite knowledge that unless the batsmen are all got out under a certain number of runs the match will be lost makes bowlers and fielders doubly efficient, for it makes them realise the absolute necessity of saving every run and getting every wicket. It is almost a truism that, in most cases, the more definite is the object a man has before himself, the better means is he likely to take to achieve it. But in the particular case of a cricketmatch this tells more favourably for bowlers than batsmen. It is true that some batsmen have the gift of rising to the occasion, and never bat so well as when their side dearly needs their best work; but, as a general rule, batsmen do not do well when they have to play against bogey as it were—against a fixed number of runs. Nervousness, anxiety, and keenness to do well, sometimes militate terribly against good batting. And there is always the fact that a bad stroke generally means "out"; and once out, a batsman never may return. That it is a big thing to go in to make a score on a bad wicket in the fourth innings of a match is sufficiently obvious. There is no surer proof of this than that it has time after time proved advantageous for a side to have to follow on, which means starting with a deficit of 120 runs to wipe off in the second innings; because if the second innings prove really fruitful, and the side which won the toss is set a fair number of runs, to get the disadvantage of the fourth innings has finally proved more than equal to the deficit.
Another advantage of taking first innings is, that it is the only one of the four where each man goes in to bat absolutely fresh. In the other innings of a match all the batsmen have had some bowling and fielding work to take the edge off their efficiency—that is, unless the first innings exactly coincide with the day's play, which it rarely does. Moreover, it not unfrequently happens that the side which bats second has to go in when the light is bad in the late afternoon of the first day, loses several good wickets, and is all out by lunch-time on the second. The fact is, that in most cases the side that bats first has the best of the bargain in every way.
The gist of the whole matter, as far as the captain is concerned, is, that there is only one case where it pays to put the other side in. This is when the wicket is drying under a hot sun, and is sticky, and is likely to remain so just long enough to get the batting side or a good part of it out; in other words, when the wicket is as difficult as it ever can be, but may perhaps get easier. Even when the wicket is sticky it is not always good policy to put the other side in; for if there are reasonable prospects of its remaining difficult for a considerable time, it pays to go in first and avoid the fourth innings. My advice is: if in doubt, take first innings.
Here we may leave the captain to go and toss with his opponent for choice of innings. He should be in a position to decide directly the result of the spin of the coin is ascertained, so that if he wins he can give his first two batsmen enough time to get ready in comfort, or, should he put the other side in, can collect his men ready to take the field punctually.
Just before tossing, the home captain should, if he has not done it already, come to a definite agreement with the visiting captain as to the precise time for luncheon, for drawing stumps, and for beginning play the next day. The value of boundaries, too, should be settled. Even when there are fixed rules or, customs peculiar to the ground, and generally known and accepted, it is as well to make quite sure that all the points are clearly understood. The umpire, too, should be informed of what the two captains have decided on such points.There is a humorous saying, that a captain's supreme duty is to win the toss. Unfortunately no coin can be made to consistently behave as desired, so there is nothing to do but go and toss and accept your luck. People have tales about lucky sixpences and lucky ways of tossing, but the fact remains that the chances are even. The only fact with a glimmer of science about it is to call tails, because the head-side of most coins is slightly the heavier, and therefore the more likely to fall undermost. In practice the coin seems to be fairly impartial as to vhether it falls on its head or on its tail. It is customary for the home captain to spin the coin, and the visiting captain to call.
W. G. GRACE CUTTING WITH THE LEFT LEG
ACROSS AT A WIDE BALL.
From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.
The moment he has decided to take the innings there is a small matter to be attended to. It is a rule that the wicket be not rolled till ten minutes before the innings begins. As a corollary, the toss should be decided in time to allow the full use of this ten minutes. On most good grounds two rollers are kept—one heavy, the other light. A captain should give precise instructions which he desires to be used. His choice will be guided by the knowledge he already has acquired as to the state of the wicket. When the wicket is hard and true, it does not make the slightest difference which roller is requisitioned. When the wicket is inclined to crumble, it is a mistake to put on the heavy roller, because it is very likely to break up the wicket still further, and make little cracks where the ground was sound before. The action of a heavy roller on a ground that is damp or soaked is to squeeze the water up to the surface. If, therefore, the ground is sticky, the heavy roller should be used, as it causes the water to well up and turn the stickiness into mere soddenness, so that for a few overs at any rate it plays more easily. A caking wicket is likely to be damaged by the heavy roller somewhat in the same way as a crumbly one. On a ground that is drying slowly but surely, the best thing to do is to dispense with rolling altogether, as the wicket is fairly easy, and the captain hopes that his side will last over the drying process till the ground is hard again. Such a wicket dries more readily without being rolled. When the wicket is really soaked, either roller or none may be employed. As a matter of practice, most captains leave the rolling to the groundman, who may usually be trusted to know what is best, and act accordingly. But the captain should observe what is being done, so as to prevent the making of any obvious mistake. Groundmen sometimes use the roller that is nearest to hand, without troubling about the probable result. There is nothing to prevent a captain personally consulting the groundman and asking his advice. The value of the advice depends upon the value of the groundman.
The captain of the ingoing side has two duties to perform in connection with the batting of his side. The first is, to arrange the order in which his eleven goes to the wicket; the second, to keep an eye on the progress of events.
He ought to have thought out the best order some time before, so that he may be quite ready to write it out directly after tossing, should he win and take the innings, or lose and be put in by the other captain. Most sides remain substantially the same for several consecutive matches, at any rate in first-class cricket. So the captain soon has a stereotyped order which only needs slight modification to suit each match.
In arranging the order of the going in, the captain should be guided by a desire to make the very best use of the material at his command, with a view to getting as many runs as possible. With slight reservations it may be taken for granted that the order should represent the respective abilities of the successive players. This is the fundamental line which must be taken in arranging a batting side. The reasons for this are, that the earlier a man goes in the better does he find the wicket, and the greater chance has he of finding some one to stay with him while he makes his runs. It often happens that a good bat who goes in late is left "not out" with a moderate score, which he might have increased to any extent if some one had remained to stay in at the other end. Again, the earlier the bowling is well taken in hand, and, if possible, collared, the more likely are subsequent batsmen to realise a large total. Clearly, the better a batsman the more likely is he to effect this. Again, the bowling is sure to be stronger and fuller of sting at the commencement of an innings; hence the more skilful batsman is the better qualified to withstand it at this stage. Further, the more that runs are made early in an innings, the more will be made towards the end. As a matter of fact, the order of merit is frequently constituted the order of going in, and with good results.
But there are the reservations to be considered. A good start is so valuable, that it is advisable to choose two sound bats to go in first. The best combination is a sound steady player and a sound forcing player, whether stylist or hitter. If one of them is a left-hander so much the better, for few bowlers bowl as well to a left- as to a right-hander. A brilliant uncertain batsman had better be kept to go in second or third wicket down, unless he be. the only really good bat on the side, in which case he should go in first. After choosing the first two, the order of merit holds good. But there are still one or two points to meet—the placing of hitters, of bowlers, and fanciful players. If there are two hitters on a side, there is much to be said for sending in one first and the other sixth or seventh. They are kept apart so as not to be liable to hit against one another. The first, if he gets runs, probably upsets the bowlers and makes them good food for the succeeding batsmen. The second, by going in rather late, is doubly useful. He is in a position where he may find the bowHng rather slack, and consequently just to his taste; while if matters go wrong through a bad wicket or bad luck, he is just the man for the desperate measures required to set things right, and he goes in at a time when such requirements can be realised. On the whole, when a side possesses only one hitter he had better go in sixth or seventh. Here it may be pointed out that when a wicket is really difficult, good hitting pays better than good play of either sort; indeed on a real bowler wicket the more hitting is done the better. So under such conditions all the forcing bats should be moved rather higher up in the order.
Bowlers affect the arrangement in this way. If they are good for runs the sooner they go in the better, so that they may get in their runs and then have plenty of time to rest and recover before they have to bowl. Care must be taken, however, not with the point in. view to force better bats down too low.
With regard to fanciful players. Some men like a particular place in the order, and feel that they are less likely to make runs if not allowed to get this. It is a mistake to disregard such fancies entirely, for though they may be unreasonable they do undoubtedly affect their possessors' play. Unless, then, the captain feels quite certain that he is muddling his order or making his batting strength materially less effective, he does well to humour them.
The original order is of course subject to such modifications as circumstances may require during the progress of the game. For instance, it sometimes pays to send in an inferior bat, who can still bat a bit, as a stop-gap for a few minutes before time, to avoid the chance of losing a valuable player. Just before the close of play a good player going in has everything to lose and nothing to gain. His batting for a few minutes does not help to get him well s6t, and his desire not to lose his wicket is likely to make him nervous and put him off his game. A steady player who usually goes in late is the best stop-gap. Again, if a player feels unwell he should be put in later than usual, because he has time to recover somewhat, and in any case is less efficient than he is usually. As a general rule, however, it does not pay to make alterations in the first order. Indeed it is very often fatal suddenly to upset the usual arrangement. The batsmen feel like fish out of water, and go in thinking—as they ought not to be doing—about other things than playing the ball. The order should not be altered without good reason.
A captain should keep an eye on matters while the other men on his side are batting, because it is his duty to identify himself entirely with the whole play of his side. Later on we shall see the great importance of this when his side are fielding. But the same thing holds good with regard to its batting. Besides, he cannot make any necessary alteration in the order unless he is following the game. Neither can he give that useful shout of "Steady, old chap!" which has saved so many cricketers. Again, he ought to be on the spot and well informed of matters in order to be able to give any advice that may occur to him as useful to the batsmen who go in later. Many a player has got 50 runs instead of none owing to a word of advice of this kind. In any case, it is a very usual thing for matters to go wrong directly the person in authority relaxes his attention; so the captain should be wide-awake and accessible in the pavilion or some obvious spot while his side are in.
From what has been said, some of the duties and difificulties of captaincy can be realised. I do not think that people understand what a great tribute is paid to a man by his fellow-men when among cricketers—good cricketers who know what they are talking about—he is recognised as a good captain. But as yet the most difficult, and in a way the most important, part of his duty has scarcely been more than mentioned in this chapter. That part is the leading and management of his side in the field. It is here that he has the widest scope, that his omissions and commissions tell most, and that he has the greatest influence upon his side for good or evil—as far, at any rate, as their cricket is concerned. If he fails in his general or preliminary duties to his side and his club, he is not a really good captain; but such duties may possibly be carried out by some other member of the club—perhaps by the secretary. Similarly, his social duties may be performed by proxy. If he lacks the ability or the energy to find out about wickets and attend to other details, good fortune may help matters along. With regard to the order of batting, it may arrange itself with fair results or be settled by rule of thumb. Besides, the captain can get endless advice on such points. In the actual batting, even if the captain pays no attention, things may go well; for, after all, each man has to do his own batting for himself, as an individual, and is for the time being a separate unit acting for himself—though the more each batsman realises that he is part of the side the better it is. But directly an eleven goes out to field, it becomes, as it were, an organism of which each man is a member, incapable beyond a certain point of acting independently of the whole and the other parts. The captain represents the linity of this whole, and also its active principle. He bears the same relation to his side as the brain does to the body. If he is dead, the side is dead; if he works wrongly, the side works wrongly. An qrganism must have a central principle to make it efficient, and a captain ought to be this central principle to his side. When the captain is a mere figurehead, a merely nominal captain, the side works much as does an animal with most of its brain removed by a vivisectionist. When the captain is bad or inefficient, the side works like a body that is ruled by a bad or inefficient brain.
The captain creates the moral atmosphere of his side. If he is slack and indifferent, so are the other ten; if he is keen and enthusiastic, so are they. Unconsciously the side as a whole assumes the captain's attitude towards cricket and towards a particular cricket-match. So his duties in the field involve a good deal besides the actual management of bowling and arrangement of fieldsmen. If his side is to play the game in the right spirit, and in the spirit that wins matches, he must be kind, cheerful, and enthusiastic, and must always try his very best. It is impossible to give advice upon such points. The only thing is for a captain to realise what it is that is required, and to see the importance of fulfilling this to the utmost of his ability.
The practical management of a side in the field involves a knowledge of the whole game of cricket, and a power to apply this knowledge to particular circumstances. It is better to lead a side by rule of thumb than not do so at all; but this is not genuine good captaincy, for no two cricket-matches are exactly alike. Different circumstances are continually arising which should be met in different ways. A captain's knowledge of the game, to be really useful, must be pliable and capable of accommodating itself. He must be able to think as well as to know. Perhaps some of these points may be illustrated incidentally when we are discussing the practical duties of a captain in the field.
These duties may be grouped under two heads—management of bowling and arrangement of fielders. And the proper fulfilment of the duties implied in these two undertakings involves a knowledge of the whole game of cricket—that is, a knowledge of batting, bowling, and fielding, not only separately but in relation to one another. This is a large order. But unless a captain recognises the truth of it, he can never hope to become a really good one.
In the chapters on Batting, Bowling, and Fielding, these three departments of the game are considered, as far as possible, from the point of view of a cricketer separately engaged in each. Here they must be treated from another point of view—that of the captain in the field.
Now, the first point to understand is how a knowledge of batting comes into the question. A moment's thought will show that it is the key to the whole situation. Batting is the object-matter of bowling and fielding. A side bowls and fields in order to get the other side out for as few runs as possible. A side bats in order to get enough runs to win the match, which comes to very much the same thing as all the runs they can. Since, then, batting is the object of attack, it is quite clear that bowlers and fieldsmen, and above all the captain, should understand the exact nature of this object, otherwise they cannot possibly use their power to the best effect. A general may have fine artillery and soldiery at his command, but accurate shooting and splendid discipline cannot possibly be used with real effectiveness unless the object against which they are being employed is thoroughly known to him. Ignorance of it is almost sure to entail waste of power. Unless he knows the arrangement of the hostile troops and the ins and outs of their position, his shells will be dropped in the wrong place and his method of attack generally be at fault. The same applies to a captain in the cricket-field. Bowlers must be chosen and put on, fielders arranged with reference to the batsmen who are in, as well as to other considerations. There is only one way to arrive at a knowledge of batting, and that is by continual observation. The kind of knowledge required relates to how particular batsmen or kinds of batsmen play; what are their strong and weak strokes; how they score most of their runs; how they generally get out, or, what is much the, same, are likely to get out. With regard to batsmen he has seen play frequently, a captain should not have much difficulty. He should have observed their game each time for future purposes. And by continually observing particular batsmen he will soon get into the habit of classing certain kinds of players in groups, so that when unknown players have to be dealt with he can fix them in one of these classes after an over or two of observation, and can act accordingly. Though no two batsmen play identically alike, there are certain fairly well-marked classes into which they fall. There are forcing bats and defensive bats; some strong on the on-side, some on the off; some whose strength lies in their forward-play, others whose strength lies in their back-play; some, again, though not many, who are strong in every direction. Again, batsmen differ in temperament, some being impetuous and hasty, others dogged and patient. All these points must be noticed and studied, and every piece of information used against the batsmen,—for each style of batting has certain inherent weaknesses. Forcing bats are liable to be bowled out in attempting their usual strokes at good-length balls, or may often be got rid of by judicious feeding of their best strokes. Defensive players are often best treated with a tricky slow bowler, for they can be frequently "diddled" or humbugged out. Forward-players are naturally weakest at those bowlers who should be played back—for instance, at slow left-handers, leg-breakers, or lob-bowlers; back-players should be plied with bowlers who should be played forward, and so on.
But it must not be forgotten that a captain has to work with a limited amount of material. He has only a certain number of bowlers at his command in a match. What he has to do is to make the best possible use of what bowling he has. When the innings begins, the first question he has to decide is, with which two bowlers to commence the attack. He should be guided by one or two considerations. As the main object is to get a wicket as soon as possible, he should choose those two bowlers who are most likely on the particular wicket to get one or both of the two incoming batsmen out. With regard to the batsmen, enough has been said to show the kind of reasoning to adopt. As to the wicket, certain bowlers are more suitable than others on certain wickets. For instance, a fast bowler cannot do himself any justice unless he can get a foothold. He is best suited for hard wickets. On dead wickets slow bowlers are generally easy, because their deliveries come so slowly off the pitch that the batsmen can watch them. Medium-pace bowlers are the best upon dead and upon wet wickets, because they can generally manage to stand, and because they have enough pace to prevent the batsman stepping back and doing what he likes with good-length balls. On sticky or difficult wickets, in general, good slow or medium-pace bowlers are the most suitable, because they can bowl difficult balls with plenty of break, without sending down loose deliveries that give the batsmen chances of scoring without having to endanger their wickets. It is a great mistake to use a leg-break bowler much on a sticky wicket for this very reason. In any case, the two bowlers to go on first are the two that are most likely to bowl best under the existing conditions. Now, in most cases they will be the two recognised Stock-bowlers of the side; and provided there is nothing to render a stock first-bowler less likely to get wickets than some other on the side, by all means let him begin. Still, I am inclined to think that captains are in the habit of taking it for granted that the two bowlers who are known by results to be the most proficient, taking the whole season through, are also the two best in all circumstances. Results only prove them to be the best in average circumstances. It is sometimes a good plan to give up the usual lines of commencing operations in favour of another. For instance, supposing the two stock first-bowlers are a fast and a medium, but one of the two first batsmen is known to be a poor hand at slows,—should the captain have a slow bowler, he had far better put him on at once to have a go at the batsman in question, before the latter gets his eye in. Remember it is a great mistake to have a hard-and-fast line of action, and to stick to it always. The proper thing is to adapt means to ends, and to use the bowlers that are most likely to prove destructive under the existing conditions.
There is another point to notice in choosing the first two bowlers. They should not only be good bowlers individually, but a good combination. The more of a contrast they are in style the better. When two bowlers of similar styles are on together, the batsman who is at home at one end is at home at the other. The same bowler might almost be bowling at both ends, as far as the batsman is concerned. If he has to play fast bowling one over and slow the next, or right-hand one over and left-hand the next, a batsman cannot get set nearly so readily. The contrast of pace and delivery is likely to cause him to misjudge the ball. It is often forgotten that the bowler who is credited on the score-sheet with the-wicket is not necessarily the one who really got it. A man is often bowled out at one end because he has been unsettled at the other. The best combination is to have a right-hand bowler at one end and a left-hand at the other, especially if they differ in pace.
It sometimes happens that a side has only two good bowlers. In this case they ought to be put on first; or if an inferior bowler is substituted for one of them with some special object in view, he should be removed in favour of the stock-bowler, unless the object is effected in the course of a few overs, or there is some definite indication that it is likely to be effected.
It is very desirable to begin with a fast bowler if you have one, and the wicket is such that he can bowl upon it; for, owing to his pace, he is very liable to get batsmen out when they first come in, and are not used to the light and the wicket.
As far as is consistent with other and more essential requirements, it is a good thing to let the two first-bowlers, and indeed even the change-bowlers, have a choice in the matter of which end they go on. Bowlers often have a distinct feeling that one end or the other is the better for their purposes; and it is as well to humour them on such points, for fancies and feelings often represent facts. Certainly, when there is a slope in the ground—as at Lord's, for instance—a bowler should be put on at the end that admits of the slope helping his break.
There is one more point with regard to first-bowlers. Bowlers fall into two classes, which may be distinguished from one another as first-bowlers and change-bowlers. The former class are those who can keep an end up for some time, and indeed bowl all through an innings if things go well for them. The second class are those who are very likely to get a wicket or two, but, either through lack of steadiness or stamina, or by reason of their style, are better fitted to go on as change-bowlers for a short time.
Curiously enough, there is a kind of cross between the two—a bowler who cannot bowl properly if put on first, but who, if put on as a change, bowls for all the world as though he were by nature a first-bowler. There are also certain bowlers who are quâ bowlers excellent, but who cannot do themselves justice unless they are allowed to start the attack. It seems to put them off their stroke if they cannot begin at the beginning of things. All these idiosyncrasies should be taken into account by a captain in his management of the bowling; but he must never lose sight of the main point, which, is to use his bowling to the best effect with the object of getting the other side out.
Before going on to make some remarks about how to change the bowlers on a side to the best advantage, it may be pardonable to digress shortly on the subject of selecting bowlers for an eleven, representative or otherwise. A side ought to include four absolutely first-rate bowlers of different styles. These are essential. And if it is impossible to find one or two all-round men of sufficient bowling ability, four bowlers must be selected with no reference to anything but their bowling qualifications. It is taken for granted that they are good fields. A common and mistaken idea is, that for an England Eleven the four best bowlers, on performances, should be selected. Now this might easily result in the side comprising four bowlers exactly alike—say, medium-pace right-hand. This is, of course, absurd. The proper procedure is to select the best man of four totally different kinds, provided there is in each kind a bowler who comes up to a certain standard. I think that an eleven ought always to contain two medium-pace bowlers—one right-hand, the other left—for medium-pace bowlers are the most generally useful. Then it should contain the best available fast right-hand bowler, and the best available slow bowler, either right or left. These four should be selected without any reference to their batting, if their bowling reaches a certain standard of excellence. When the choice lies between two men of equal bowling but unequal batting or fielding ability, the choice would naturally fall upon the better bat or field. In making up an eleven where the limited area of selection precludes the possibility of getting a first-rater of each class, the aim should be to supply the deficiency in one class or the other by including the best bat who can bowl fairly well in the style that is lacking. By this means the required variety in the attack is secured without weakening the batting of the side too much. It sometimes happens that no really good bowlers are available. Under these circumstances selection committees often make the mistake of including purely as bowlers players who are really no better bowlers than several already selected as bats. It is far better to strengthen the batting than to include as bowlers men who are not really bowlers, but who by a curious process of misjudgment are regarded as such simply because they cannot bat.
But to return. The changing of bowling is one of the most difficult duties of the captain. It requires great judgment and the closest attention to the game. Anything more useless than for the captain to put on bowlers for . equal intervals without any reference to the game is inconceivable. The very virtue of a change is to meet some observed requirement. Consequently, if a captain retires to the long-field, leaves things to take care ot themselves, amuses himself with extraneous thoughts, or goes to sleep, he is scarcely likely, when he does think fit to order a change, to choose the right one.
The object of changing the bowling is twofold: first, to rest the stock-bowlers or the bowlers who are for the occasion doing most of the work; secondly, to try what a new kind of bowling will do towards getting rid of a batsman who seems at home with that being employed at the time.
A change of bowling should be rather differently made in each of these cases. Supposing a captain has only two good bowlers upon whom he can rely to get the opposing side out, he must use them very carefully. Though they have to get all the wickets, they cannot possibly bowl all the innings unless it is a short one. Yet he cannot afford to dispense with any work that they can do. In fact, the problem is how to get the best out of them. Perhaps the wisest course is to take one off at a time at suitable intervals, and substitute for him the steadiest available change-bowler, in order that the resting of the wicket-getting bowler may not cost the side too dear in runs. A fast bowler naturally requires more frequent spells of rest than a medium or slow. If the hope of getting wickets depends chiefly on a fast bowler, he must be very carefully used. He should always be allowed a chance at new batsmen, as his pace is likely to beat them at first. But he should be taken off directly runs begin to come freely off him, and then put on again for a bit. A fast bowler is especially valuable for knocking out the tail of a side, so he should not be exhausted too much by being kept on when he is obviously doing no good. It pays to take any bowler off directly he shows signs of losing his "devil." It is a mistake to allow him to bowl himself out; for, in the first place, he is nearly sure to be expensive in the process of getting thoroughly tired, and when once thoroughly tired, he is liable not to recover his sting at all. If, on the other hand, he is given a rest directly he begins to tire, he will probably be as fit as ever after twenty minutes or so. By judicious management three hours of good work during an innings may be got out of a bowler who cannot bowl for threequarters of an hour on end without tiring. A bowler usually tires much less quickly when he is getting wickets than when he is not.With regard to changing the bowling in order to get wickets. First, it is advisable not to take a bowler off too soon, for some bowlers require time to get going. But it is far better to take a bowler off too soon than too late. He can always be put on again, but the piece of "too much" he has done is so much pure loss that cannot be made up. Secondly, a change ought to be a real change—that is to say, the bowler put on should, if possible, be quite different from the one taken off, in order that the batsman may be more likely to misjudge his deliveries. At the same time, care should be taken not to spoil the contrast between the bowlers at either end. The aim should be always to have two dissimilar bowlers on together. The limitations of a side often prevent this, but it should be kept in mind. Lob-bowling is always an excellent
A. G. STEEL.
From photo by E. Hawkins & Co., Brighton.
When a bowler is bowling maiden after maiden without getting any one out, it sometimes pays to take him off, sometimes not. A bowler who is doing this may be either bowling so well that the batsmen cannot score off him, or he may be continually beating them but not hitting the wicket. In this case there is no objection to his being kept on, unless he may be taken off with the hope that the batsman will have a hit at a new and less accurate bowler, and so be liable to get himself out. On the other hand, maidens may mean that the bowler is bowling just well enough to keep down the runs, but not well enough to beat the batsmen. In this case he had better come off, as he is simply bowling the batsmen in instead of out. It must not be forgotten that batsmen who know what they are about often refrain from punishing a bowler as severely as they might when they feel at home with his deliveries, for fear of his being taken off and another less suitable to them put on instead. This is the meaning of "nursing" the bowling. Such tactics may easily be detected and defeated by a watchful captain.
A very common mistake is to take off a bowler once and never put him on again. I have often seen a good bowler given too long a spell to begin with, then taken off and never given another turn the whole innings through. It nearly always pays to get the best bowlers on again as soon as circumstances justify it. For instance, if your best bowler cannot get either of the first two batsmen out, and a change is made in favour of an inferior bowler who succeeds in taking a wicket after an over or two, it is a mistake to keep the latter on for long in the hope of his getting several more wickets. It should be remembered that the inferior bowler has probably succeeded purely because his deliveries differed from those of his predecessor, and not through any intrinsic merit. The first bowler should be restored after the change-bowler has had an over or two. Of course here, as everywhere, the captain must be guided by his judgment and discretion. If the change-bowler bowls better than the first one, by all means keep him on, but do not forget the first bowler. One of the very best changes is a slow leg-break bowler; but unless he is a very good one, he should only be kept on for a few overs at a time. Batsmen treat such bowlers much as trout do a cast of flies: they either rise at once or never. So a leg-breaker generally gets a wicket in the course of three or four overs or not at all. Quite a moderate "leg-toss" bowler is a very useful change, as indeed is even a bad lob-bowler. The point is to use such material just enough and no more.
When a side is furnished with only a little bowling, but that little very good, the problem before the captain is so to arrange his changesi. that he gets the best value out of his valuable material. On the other hand, where there is plenty of bowling, none of which is at all good, the aim should be to increase the value of each bowler by never letting the batsmen really get hold of him. In the former case, changes should be made principally to rest the good bowlers; in the latter, for the sake of the change itself, as likely to make the moderate bowling as difficult as possible for the batsmen. Naturally these two conditions of changes of bowling often cross and combine. This is especially the case when a side is neither particularly strong nor particularly weak in bowling.
It will be seen that a captain in making his changes must take into consideration not only what the bowlers are doing, but how the batsmen are playing. Some captains seem to know by intuition exactly when a change should be made. I think the way to cultivate this power of being inspired, as it were, with the right course to pursue, comes from a close and continual sympathy with the bowlers. A captain should identify himself with his bowlers, so that he is all the time bowling in the spirit himself. He then has more or less the right feeling towards the progress of the game, and can manage his bowling in a telling manner. The faculty of putting himself in other people's positions is one of the most valuable for a captain to cultivate.
That a captain should himself be a bowler is usually considered unadvisable. The idea is, that he is likely to bowl either too much or too little. There is something in this. We all know, especially in club cricket, the captain who goes on to bowl at one end and remains a fixture there, any changes being made at the other end. This "bowlomania" is absolutely fatal in a captain, and is very difficult to cure. Then there is the captain who, though a good or useful bowler, cannot be persuaded to go on at all, or at any rate as often as he should. Obviously such a captain allows shyness or modesty, or a fear of being considered a maniac," to weaken the bowling strength of his side. This is a mistake.
Now, as a matter of fact, a man ought to be the very best judge in the world of his own value as a bowler, and consequently ought to know better than any one else when to go on and when to come off. If a man is a good judge of cricket, and can cultivate the faculty of regarding himself and his own cricket dispassionately, there is no reason why he should not be both a bowler and a good captain. In some ways it may be an advantage for a captain to be a bowler, because the fact that he has a practical knowledge of the art of bowling is likely to give him in a fuller degree that theoretical knowledge which is necessary as alone providing many of the principles for the management of bowling. From this point of view the all-round man is perhaps more likely than any other to have a sound knowledge of the game, for he has a practical as well as a theoretical knowledge of it. Hence an all-round man is not unlikely to make a good captain.
We have seen that in managing bowling a captain has to regard both the opposing batsmen and also the state of the wicket. In arranging his field he will still have to regard both those points and the character of the bowling in addition. The proper arrangement of the fieldsmen in particular places must vary according to the kind of balls the bowler is delivering, the state of the wicket, and the stroke the batsman is making or likely to make. The truth of this can very easily be demonstrated, but it is very inadequately recognised. It is the commonest occurrence in the world for captains to have their fields placed without any reference to the variation of conditions. Not a few have a general idea that differences should be made to suit slow, medium, and fast bowlers. But it is quite the exception to see states of wicket and peculiarities of batsmen properly taken into consideration. The variations that should be made are sometimes slight, but it is just the slight variations that make all the difference in the world. Having a fieldsman in a place where he is not needed instead of where he is needed, may mean the loss of 50 or 60 runs that might have been saved. Placing a man a couple of yards too near in, may mean that half-a-dozen catches which might have come to hand are allowed to go untouched. The arrangement of the field is essentially a matter of detail, and it is the omission to provide for one detail that often makes all the difference.
The case is this. The objects of arranging fieldsmen at all are, first, that they may help the bowlers to get the batsmen out; and second, that they may save as many runs as possible. Now, in order to realise these two objects the fieldsmen must be so placed that they are as far as may be exactly in the spots to which batsmen hit the ball, either as catches or along the ground. Clearly a field put where the batsman cannot or is extremely unlikely to hit the ball is not only useless where he is, but leaves unoccupied a spot where he might be useful. This placing of a field is like losing a seat in a parliamentary election: it counts two on a division.
In order, then, to put the fieldsmen in the places they ought to occupy, a captain must know or ascertain where batsmen are likely to hit. The direction in which a batsman hits depends principally upon his style—that is, the sum of his strokes—but partly also upon the kind of balls served to him, and upon the condition of the wicket. If a batsman has not got certain strokes, he obviously is not likely to hit in certain directions. For instance, a man who has no off-drive will probably never hit a ball to the place sometimes occupied by deep-extra-cover. On the other hand, the probable direction of a batsman's strokes depends upon the kind of balls he has to play. Good-length balls outside the off-stump are more likely to be cut or driven on the off than hit to long-on. Slow balls are more likely to be driven in the air towards the long-field than fast ones; and so on. Another point that must be considered in this connection is the probable direction of mis-strokes—that is to say, where a batsman is likely to send the ball if he misjudges it, or fails to play as he meant. Obviously this depends partly on the kind of stroke attempted, partly on the kind of ball bowled.
The state of the wicket affects the arrangement of the fields thus. Whether the wicket is hard or soft, dead or sticky, crumbly or fiery, makes a considerable difference to where strokes and mis-strokes are likely to go, and also to the rate at which they travel. In the first place, the ball comes off the pitch differently as to pace on different wickets; secondly, it breaks more on some than on others. This is explained in the chapter on Bowling. Here it is sufficient to remark that on slow wickets or dead wickets the ball comes slowly off the pitch, and therefore the commonest mistake on the batsmen's part is to hit too soon—that is, lift the ball—especially in playing forward; whereas mis-strokes behind the wicket are unlikely. Hence on such wickets the extra man, if there is one—that is, the man about whom there is some doubt as to whether he should be put in this place or that—should be in front of the wicket. On such wickets, too, the batsman is likely to step back and pull or place to the on-side balls he would hit to the off on a fast wicket. Thus an extra mid-on or deep long-on may be more useful than extra-cover. On fast wickets mis-strokes behind the wicket are the more common, especially off fast bowlers; so the extra man may well be put as an extra-slip.
Again, the state of the wicket decides almost entirely the amount of break that can be effected by a bowler. And the amount of break and its character modify considerably the direction of strokes. If a bowler is breaking from the off, he is more easily hit towards the on-side, and strokes off him have a tendency to the on-side. It is vice versa with leg-breaks. For example, if a batsman hits at a good-length straight ball without attempting to pull or place it, it will, if hit true, go somewhere close to him along the ground or over his head. The same stroke at a ball pitching on the same spot, but breaking from the off, would probably go more in the direction of mid-on or even forward short-leg. With leg-break it would probably go towards mid-off or extra-cover. In other words, the direction of the hit is inclined to favour the direction towards which the ball is breaking. In playing back, as a batsman should do when the ball is breaking much, it is far easier for him to place off-breaks to the on-side than to the off. Mis-hits off a leg-break bowler usually go towards the off. Hence, when a bowler is breaking considerably from the off, extra-cover and extra-slip may be put at short-leg and extra-deep-mid-on. Another point to notice is, that on wet wickets the ball travels more slowly along the ground after being hit. Consequently those fielders who are meant to save one run always—such as mid-off, mid-on, cover, extra-cover, and third-man—must be nearer the wicket than when the ground is hard and dry.
It is impossible here to work out in detail all the various alterations that should be made to suit circumstances. Some of them are noticed in the chapters on Bowling and Fielding, as also are the general lines on which fields should be arranged. A captain who once recognises the theory of placing the field, and that various alterations are continually necessary to suit varying circumstances, will soon see how he can best dispose the nine men at his command—nine, because the bowler and the wicket-keeper are always fixed quantities.
There are several general pieces of advice that captains would do well to attend to.
A captain should always field somewhere near the wicket, otherwise he cannot possibly see how things are going. If he does not happen to be the wicket-keeper, point is an excellent place for him. He must be somewhere central.
He should never omit to alter his field every time circumstances make it advisable. If he puts off an alteration, the chance of a wicket may be lost.
He should make sure before every ball is bowled that the field is placed exactly as he requires. Slight corrections should be made every time they are required.
He should always consult his bowlers about the arrangement of the field, and, where he sees no reason to object, follow their wishes. Note, however, that there are some bowlers very good mechanically, but quite incapable of making the best disposition of their fielders.
In managing bowlers and arranging fielders he should always make them feel that everything is done for the good of the side, and not merely to please his own whims or caprice.
And finally, he should be thinking and observing from the time the first ball is bowled till the last man is out.
There is one more duty a captain is called on to fulfil. It is when occasion arises to decide at what period on the last day of a match to declare his innings at an end. Sometimes the problem is simple enough. His side may be so fortunately placed as to be perfectly safe from defeat in good time, so that he can declare early on the last day with every prospect of winning and no chance of losing. At others, he has to choose between a forward and a cautious policy. The match may be in such a state that he may win it by declaring, but cannot be sure of winning without giving the other side enough time to knock off the runs should they bat well enough. It is a difficult point to give advice upon. The choice is between the dashing and the safe game. On the whole, I think it is best to go for the gloves. Unfinished matches are an abomination. After all, if a side that has been declared against wins the match, the victory is thoroughly deserved. It is almost worth giving the other side just a chance of winning whenever it is possible to do so, purely for the sake of sport and a close finish. But in first-class matches a captain has many interests to consider, and should do nothing rashly. He ought to be able to judge pretty accurately the limit number of runs the other side can score against his bowlers under given conditions. He must take into consideration the state of the wicket, the nearness of boundaries, the quality of his bowling and the opposing batting, and tiie general rate of scoring on the particular ground. Then he should give himself about a quarter of an hour inside the limit of time in which the runs can possibly be got, and he can pick his time with fair confidence. It is better to have a try to win the match in any case; but it is, of course, rather foolish to run unnecessary risks. Still, it is on general grounds better to have tried and lost than never to have tried at all. A captain who has often to exercise his judgment on this point is a very lucky one, and probably not the class of captain to make many mistakes.