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The Complexity of Cricket- Alone in the middle Or Surrounded by the Team

Is cricket a team game or an individual sport?

It’s just like the relationship status of the guys in their early 20s on Facebook- as they say, it’s complicated. Some fundamental questions in this journey on earth sound simple, but carry complexity. And about the moments when I feel like a fish out of the water, it generally is while someone asks me a question on cricket, and I stand pinned at a point without any answer.

Some questions are quite annoying sometimes. It’s not just because you don’t’ have an answer of it or you feel it’s a wrong question. You could function easily after getting the enquiry, but the feeling is like having a pebble in the shoe. You could walk, but quite in an irritating manner.

This time they asked whether Cricket is a team game or an individual one? Is it surrounded by the team, or is it about finding yourself alone in the middle? It’s complex to even think, leave about offering an explanation.

The most bewildered theory behind it is how half of the cricket fraternity tries to feel the later. The rest half, which is the lion’s share, tries to portrait their mind, putting the game in the team category. But the question still remains to be answered. Who will?

The complexity of cricket
©- Lord’s Cricket Ground/ Twitter
The equal mix of both team and individual game aspects of cricket

How many times those cliché sentences have been put before the world? That ‘1 and 1 make it 11’ probably whistle around one’s ear every single time they watch the game. Despite the coaches and administrations waste their energy repeating ‘there is no I in the team’, cricket moves in its own rhythm.

In that documentary on ‘The new era of Australia cricket’, there was a scene where coach Justin Langer put ‘It’s Us, not Me’ in the blackboard of the team-room. It’s a series of showdowns among the individuals to paint the face of the game.

When the bowler picks up a wicket, or one of the members grabs a catch, the very next minute, they look for the other members to celebrate the moments. Doesn’t often happen for the batters. The one on strike charges on for a single to complete his well deserving century. The only person he gets to share the moment is his partner at the non-striker end.

However, when the bowler and the batter take on each other, the roles of the fielders and non-strikers come in nothing but supporting them. “You are never alone” is the phase most of the coaches use when one of their players go through a tough phase in their career. “There are 10 of your mates in the middle to help you out” generally becomes their reinforcing statement.

Facing the bullet standing alone in the middle

The batter walks out, faces the bowler, misses a few deliveries, tentatively throws their kitchen sink at a few. If lucky, they may get a run, or else finds the way back to the dressing room. It’s the same for the bowler. They come on to bowl, and gets smashed all around the park.

In the former incident, the non-striker had nothing to do rather than giving advice. While in the second case, the fielders could take a athletic catch to help the bowler out. But even in that case, it’s the bowler who needs to deliver the ball to produce the chance.

There is a pretty close example of two individuals when it comes to the batting circumstances. The then England captain, Alastair Cook was going through a horrible Ashes tour back in 2013/2014. Every ball had Cook’s name on it, and every bowler seemed to be waking up in the morning and dreaming to take the wicket of one of finest openers of all time Test cricket.

Cook could just capture 246 runs in 10 innings with three fifties. That was the point when the opener went through such a hard time, and the graph tended fall down a little. More than him, it was Virat Kohli’s 134-run series in 2014 England summer. Kohli just started to put a huge step in international cricket by then, and then came probably the first hammer in the chest.

Both of them weren’t through tough times individually, and had to deal with it. The team was their for the mental support, perhaps a few for helping them out physically, but that’s the best they could possibly do!

In the middle of a cricket field, it's the individual who takes charge on most occasions.
©-Cricbuzz/ Twitter

It was them only who had to go back to the drawing room to relook at what went wrong. What could have been done better, or what changes they could bring in their technique to reinvent themselves in the field- those were the questions they got to answer themselves. And they did. Cook returned with close to 300-run series in seven innings in that 2014 home India series. Kohli went a step further and finished the 2014/2015 Australia summer with 692-runs in eight innings.

Team stands on individual contributions and the vice-versa

One needs to be crystal clear on one fact- the team is as good as the individuals. Unless those 11 in the field doesn’t turn up in positive way, the team just can’t win. But is there an instance where two individuals helped each one out to make the team win?

One doesn’t need to go back much. It was the 2023 ODI World Cup. Australia was taking on Afghanistan, who was all over the Aussies in the 291-run defense. 25-30 years later, Everyone would remember Glenn Maxwell’s 201*, who almost single handedly carried them over the line from the disaster of 91/7. But there is value of every word in a sentence, and the word ‘almost’ carries its own weight here.

Hardly one would remember Pat Cummins’ 12 of 68 balls, that came on the back of just one boundary. All the defensive shots he played, and kept him attentive in those vital moments of the game was the reason why Maxwell could rip off the chase. There was the instance of how two individuals helped their team out in a combined stature.

Then let’s get back to the 2019 World Cup final. Lord’s. The last over. The super over. The super over chase. And there came Jofra Archer. Defending 15 to make England win their maiden ODI World Cup at the start of his career and that to in a super over, who would want to be in Archer’s shoes. And again, the team was there but it was him who had to finish the work on an individual prospect.

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His then captain, Eoin Morgan had a short chat with him, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali went pass him with a piece of advice. Ben Stokes spoke with experience. Archer was ready. And there came Jos Buttler, getting the full view of the field as a wicket-keeper, with his recommendation. And Archer started off with a wide. He finally pulled it off, and England won, or did they? Well, we would call it a victory.

Just think about a Test match. You remember that 2019 Headingley Ashes Test. It was only Ben Stokes who pulled it off, but the biggest cheer of the game came on the Jack Leach’s match-winning single. Quite fascinating. Isn’t it?

So where does it end? Is it a team game? Not really! Does it come on an individual prospect? Could be! But the bottom-line flows in a different rhythm. Unless the individuals do their work, the team would never do a complete and successful job. If the pillars keep on standing straight, the building will stay fit for a long time.

Do the individual job quite well and the team will end on winning more.

That Mad Writer
Author: That Mad Writer

Someone who loves how Steve Smith from being Australia's future Shane Warne has become present Don Bradman, gets inspired by Anderson's longevity, gets awed with Kohli's drive and Southee's bowling action. Never gets excited with stats and records, and believes in instincts, and always questions spinners bowling with the new ball.

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