Coaching Corner 20 – Introduction to Fielding
The importance of fielding cannot be over-emphasised. The old saying , “Catches win matches” is as true now as it ever was, but fielding is about more than catching. It is a vital part of the game, one to be enjoyed and not a chore that has to be endured while waiting your turn to bat or bowl.
Players such as Paul Collingwood and Jonty Rhodes have made fielding into a spectator sport in its own right with their speed of reaction and movement, agility and throwing. Before them, the likes of Clive Lloyd and Derek Randall regularly inspired their teams with their exploits in the field, and Mark Waugh was so good in the slips that he seemed to be able to catch swallows.
But these players, although blessed with great natural ability, had to work hard to perfect their art.
You also, even at club level, must be prepared to put in plenty of practice. If you do, you will soon find that the effort is worth it – and your bowlers most certainly will!
The fielding positions can be broken down into three categories:
1. The close-catching ring: slips, gully, silly point, the short-legs, silly mid-on, silly mid-off.
2. The inner ring: backward point, the covers, mid-off, mid-wicket, square leg, backward square leg - all trying to cut off run-scoring opportunities and singles.
3. The outer ring: the boundary fielders.
All these rings need their own particular skills: the close-catchers need lightning reactions and sure (big!) hands; the inner ring needs fielders who are quick and nimble with good anticipation, and the ability to throw quickly and accurately over a short distance; the boundary fielders need to be able to sprint and have a throw like a cannon.
N.B. For the young cricketer, the close catching positions are restricted to the slips. Under no circumstances should anyone under the age of 15 field close to the bat anywhere on the leg-side or in front of the wicket on the off-side. To do so is to risk injury. For precise guidance, please see the ECB fielding directives.