Topsy-Turvy: A Tale of Ingenious Tactics from the Aussie Boondocks

A Note from Ron Slee …. an Aged Aussie Mate

Michael, my ‘old age indulgence’ lacks the verification of yours and while it bears some similarities, sadly, I have no pictures.

It was ‘64/65.  I was captain of my High School Cricket X1.  I provided leadership in neither batting nor bowling but I had a heightened sense of how difficult it was to score runs against good bowlers and how equally difficult it was to bowl to good batsmen.  This profound weakness at batting and bowling led me to develop a strategy which produced success for my team.

By way of background, there were 2 local rules. The first was that in our local version of T20, every one (apart from the wicket keeper) bowled 2 overs each. The second was that batsmen retired if they reached 20. 

My strategy had the following elements:

  • I would open our batting with our weakest batsmen, with instructions to slog.   If they were dismissed cheaply it was not a great loss because they weren’t expected to score many runs but often they would score quickly and heavily.  Partly this was because they were facing fast bowlers and even their snicks and miss-hits went to the boundary.  Also, we were helped because, as you might expect, my opposing captain would set a “test field” with multiple slips and very few fielders on the fence.  Plus, even when our batsmen miss-hit to catching positions, the catches were invariably dropped.
  • Logically, as their best bowlers completed their 2 overs each, their weak bowlers ended up bowling to our best batsmen. The outcome was that we compiled winning tallies, usually above 100.When we took the field, our worst bowlers were given the new ball. They bowled slowly (and inaccurately) to a very defensive field (no slips) which allowed a single off most balls but very few boundaries. Besides, the opening batsmen had been coached to “play themselves in”, “don’t take chances”, “hit the ball along the ground”. This often meant that, after 4 overs (8-ball overs back then), our opponents would rarely have reached 20 between them, below the strike rate needed to win and even if they went on to make 20, they retired and their weaker colleagues had to chase runs against our better bowlers.  Invariably, they failed.
  • In my team, some of the good cricketers suggested my strategy “didn’t seem right” but usually the joy of victory prevailed.
  • However, our Headmaster received complaints from the opposing schools and he spoke to me about the ‘spirit of the game’. My counter was that I was giving some of our players opportunities they were rarely granted – the excitement of opening the batting or being given the new ball – and besides, we were winning.  I’m not sure he was entirely convinced but he never asked me to change the strategy!
  • This season of matches was covered in the local paper but not reported as controversial, simply as a successful year for my school even though we rarely achieved consecutive victories over our neighbouring schools.   A more astute journalist might have delved deeper to discover the seeds of such unexpected success.

I’m told that, after I left, my strategy was discontinued and my school went back to its previous record of winning some and losing most.  Our season of unprecedented success was not a “concerted work of genius” but it was devised by someone who loved winning.  And to this day, his ‘theory’ has never been given a name!



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