Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Long-term ambitions

It's well established that setting achievable goals provides a useful spur to improved performance, and this year's target of 10 wickets certainly helped me to take those 10 wickets. My other two targets - 100 runs and 5 catches or run-outs - weren't met, and for different reasons: I didn't make 100 runs because that target was far too ambitious for my level of experience, and I didn't contribute 5 wickets in the field because I was never in a position to do so. Even if I'd taken every catch I was presented with this year, I'd still have only taken 3 catches! The targets I've been thinking of for next season are a bit more open ended - a bowling average of under 32 (my waist size) and a batting average of over 9.5 (my shoe size) - and I think they're realistic, but I think it may also be helpful to set out a few long-term aspirations that go far beyond next season. Some of them may be a bit far-fetched, but as long as they focus my mind on the future they may be of some use.

So lets start with the most outlandish ones first...

TARGET: To score a century
REASONING: Well, every dog has his day...
STEPPING STONES: 10, 25, 50, 75
IMPROVEMENTS REQUIRED: Considerable! I would need to firstly improve my defensive shots so I didn't get out to the good balls, which in itself would require me to increase my ability to judge length quickly, improve my footwork, and then play the shot instinctively. Then I would need to find two or three reliable and safe scoring shots, including a decent drive, and I would also have to change to a faster style of run-scoring, acquire the ability to build an innings, and the physical stamina to actually withstand it. Then I'd need a healthy dollop of luck...

TARGET: To be selected for the 2nd XI
REASONING: I think it's far too ambitious for me to ever think about getting into the 1st XI, as there is a basic level of innate talent amongst all the 1st team players that I simply don't have, and will never have. However, I have already played with and against the 3rds and felt reasonably comfortable, certainly to the point that I don't think it's too far fetched to imagine getting into the 3rds a few times next year and possibly becoming a regular after that, so, given time, it may be possible to make it to the 2nds if I continue to work hard and develop my game at the current rate.
STEPPING STONES: To become established as a senior 4th team player, then to break into the 3rds, then to become a 3rd team regular.
IMPROVEMENTS REQUIRED: Firstly if I am to be picked for a higher level of cricket it will primarily be on the basis of my bowling, so I will need to develop into a fully-functioning leg-spinner with a faster mode of delivery, better control of line and length, more fully-developed bowling plans and field settings, and a reasonably full range of reliable variations to turn to. The other major factor in making a step up will be the quality and reliability of my fielding, and this would need to improve significantly. I would need to make a big improvement in my catching, and also show more energy and commitment throwing myself around to stop the ball. As for batting, I would need to be able to hang around a bit, but it won't be the deal-breaker.

TARGET: To take 50 wickets in a season
REASONING: This is quite a holistic bowling target, as it requires a number of things to be achieved. I would have to take more than two wickets a match consistently regardless of either the conditions or the opposition, and I would have to be trusted enough by my captain to be given the requisite number of overs in which to achieve this.
IMPROVEMENTS REQUIRED: Firstly I'd have to bowl more often and that means becoming a reliable bowler who can be trusted not to go for 20+ off two overs, so I'll have to develop my style of bowling to be economical as well as threatening. I will have to improve my analysis of batsmen and wickets so I can formulate better plans of attack, and also I will have to be better able to adjust my field settings for different players, situations, conditions Etc. I would also need to be consistently performing, so I would have to be close to my best even in less than ideal conditions, and I'd have to eradicate the kind of mid-season slump I had this year, and find a way to keep myself motivated and working hard.

TARGET: To captain the 4th XI
REASONING: I do think that, given time, it's a role I could be good at. The off-field aspects - collecting subs, picking players, setting the team vision - I could probably do reasonably well right now, and putting all modesty aside I am brighter than most players at the club, and I have more fully-developed man-management skills. I also think spinners tend to make good captains as they are more used to taking calculated risks and balancing attack and defence than batsmen or seam-up bowlers.
IMPROVEMENTS REQUIRED: I would need to fully establish my place in the side and bring my fielding up to a level that sets an example, but my main stumbling block is that at the moment my relative inexperience of playing cricket means either I would not currently be up to the on-field job of chosing bowlers and setting fields, or that I would not be confident enough in the role. This is a problem that will naturally ease as time goes on, so it's only a matter of time before I put myself forward. Politically I'm pretty sure when the time comes I could marshal the requisite support in the club-house.

TARGET: To become a spin-bowling coach
REASONING: This is more of a "things I might do once I've stopped playing" thing, but I do think my understanding of the theory of spin bowling and my ability to explain them are sound, and my own experience of coaching is you really do need a spin specialist to properly teach spin, as the jack-of-all-trades coach simply doesn't know enough about the techniques or the mindset.
STEPPING STONES: Helping out with the juniors, coaching qualifications
IMPROVEMENTS REQUIRED: It would of course be useful to have a reasonably successful club career behind me before I took it up, but other than acquiring experience over the next couple of decades, and successfully negotiating the odd coaching course, there isn't much that actually has to be improved. I'd only want to coach at junior or club level after all. I think the main qualification required is a boundless enthusiasm for spin bowling and spin bowlers, and I've already got that in spades!

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