Coaching Corner 26 – Catching 1: introduction and close catching

“Catches win matches” may be a cliché, but it’s true! Even at the highest level, a dropped catch has proved the difference between winning and losing a match. Remember the famous Ashes series of 2005 when the Australians dropped Kevin Pietersen at the Oval and he went on to play a match-saving and series-winning innings.

Good catchers need:

·         Quick reflexes

·         Good hands

·         Good anticipation

·         A good eye

·         A still head

Let’s consider the hands first.

The most important thing is to “give” with the ball as you catch it. If you don’t, the ball will probably bounce out of your hands. A good way to hone this technique is to use a tennis ball. Ask a partner to throw catches to you from a few metres away, or even better, ask him or her to hit the ball towards you with a racket from about 12 to 15 yards away. Because a tennis ball is lighter than a cricket ball, if your hands don’t give as you catch it, it will bounce out of your hands. Then revert to catching a cricket ball and you will find how much easier it is.

Reflexes

These can be improved using a “Katchet” board or a slip cradle, both of which are available at the club, and an “Incrediball” or similar training ball can be used to catch from a short distance to minimise the risk of a finger injury.

But you don’t need specialised equipment to train reflexes. One simple drill is to work with a partner who stands in front of you at just over arm’s length away. Ask him to put a ball in each hand and stretch out his arms in front of him. He then releases one of the balls, which you have to catch. The height of the arm can be varied to increase or reduce the speed of the reaction that is needed.

Another enjoyable activity to use with a partner is to take a tennis ball and cover half of it with insulating tape. When the ball is thrown, it will swerve suddenly and you will have to react quickly to catch it.

Now let’s look at close catching in particular, which for our purposes will be slip-catching because of the restrictions on young people fielding close to the bat in other positions. (See Coaching Corner 20).

First of all it is essential to get down low - for a very simple reason: it is much easier to get up quickly to a high ball than get down to a low ball. So adopt a crouching position, equally balanced on the balls of the feet, and keep your hands together and low. Keep the head still and watch the ball closely from the moment it leaves the bowler’s hand. Some cricketers prefer to watch the edge of the bat if they are fielding wide - at third slip perhaps, but as a general rule it is probably easier for young cricketers to concentrate if they watch the ball from the hand. See photographs.

Note the fingers are spread wide to create as large an area as possible.

As you catch the ball, “give” back along its path, and move your head as close to the line as possible. Don’t clutch at the ball, but keep your hands “soft” and the force of the ball will close them. Watch the ball right into the hands. See photographs.

Note how the hands “give” and note also the head position.

Common faults

·         Not getting low or getting up too soon.

·         Not keeping the hands together, but on the knees or by your side.

·         Being on the heels, rather than on the balls of the feet

·         Not watching the ball into the hands.