Fielding, The Fundamentals - cricket for india
COACHING

Fielding - The Fundamentals

Cricketing maxims like "Catches win matches" and "A run saved is a run gained", sum up the significance of one of the most important departments of the game- FIELDING.

Richie Benaud defines 'fielding' as the underrated, unglamorous, third department of cricket that cannot be measured in the scorebook in the same way as runs and wickets. The great Don Bradman, who understood the importance of good fielding, aptly wrote that if there is one department in cricket in which sheer natural ability is self-evident, it is fielding. Unfortunately, too many players regard fielding as a necessary chore instead of an art in itself. However, things are changing.





The advent of one-day cricket has seen a tremendous improvement in fielding standards. The breathtaking catches and stops made by the likes of Jonty Rhodes and Mohammed Azharuddin were as spectacular as a magnificent shot played by a class batsman. In recent times, cricket-lovers have had the fortune of watching Herschelle Gibbs, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh and Ricky Ponting, all of whom exude fun and a vibrant attitude while fielding that not only lifts the other members of the team, but also thrills the spectators.

An old saying is that the side that does not drop a catch does not lose a match. While this is not entirely true, there is a lot of common sense behind the remark. The immediate examples that come to mind are the dropped catch of Steve Waugh by Gibbs in a crucial Super Six game in the 1999 World Cup, and the wonderful catches that Tendulkar and Kaif held off Inzamam-ul-haq and Shoaib Malik respectively in the recent series against Pakistan. These catches had a bearing on the result of the match.

With men like Gibbs, Ponting and Yuvraj leading the way, it can be safely said that future of fielding is in good hands.

Fielding can be divided into three distinct 'types'. Needless to say, a proficiency in all three 'types' is critical for a team's success.

CLOSE-IN-FIELDING

'Specialists' should occupy the positions close to the wicket. These will be fielders whose reflexes, anticipation and 'fast hands' enable them to snap up deflections others would miss. To field in the slips, gully, silly mid-on, silly mid-off, short fine leg and silly leg, the correct posture is needed. Stand with your palms only a few inches apart, ready to catch. In this fielding 'type', as in the other two, it is vital to be able to think on your feet, quite literally! The weight should be evenly distributed between your legs so that you can move to the right or left quickly, and the knees bent enough for you to get down near the probable line of the ball. 'Close-in' specialists have this knack of anticipating a catch earlier than their colleagues who specialize in the outfield. When they have to make ground to reach a catch, they are on the move before the ball meets the bat, having sensed that it will find the edge and judged the direction in which it would fly.

MID-FIELDING

Positions such as mid-off, cover, mid-on and square-leg that are around twenty yards away from the bat, demand fieldsmen who are capable of making smart pick-ups and fast, accurate throws. They can, by darting swiftly towards the ball as soon as it is played in their area, cause many run-outs.

OUT-FIELDING

Players who field close to the boundary should have a smooth pick-up, a strong throwing arm and the ability to run fast to cut off boundaries.

Other important tips to improve one's fielding are:

   One must learn to stop the ball properly. It may arrive slow or fast, to the left or right, or straight. The first objective is to get behind the path of the ball & stop it with both hands.

   If the ball is traveling fast and wide, there will be occasions when one cannot get both hands to it. There is nothing wrong with one-handed stops, but this method should be employed only when it is impossible to get behind the ball with both hands.

   A useful tip to remember, particularly when fielding square to the wicket, is that the ball will curve away as it speeds along the grass. At all times while fielding, it is necessary to watch the ball right into your hands.

   When the bowler starts his run-up, the outfielders should be 'on the move', walking briskly towards the striker. This initial movement increases the chances of reaching the ball faster, than if one had been standing still when the ball was bowled. The best fielders always walk towards the batsman, no matter how hard the latter is likely to strike the ball.





   While walking in, the fielder should focus his eyes on the bat, for this will give him an advance warning of the direction of the stroke. The speed of picking up and throwing in one motion is the essence of a good fielder, always remembering to keep one's eyes on the ball.

   Looking regularly at the captain, for sometimes a last-minute adjustment is a pre-requisite and important habit to cultivate.

   There is one golden rule for fielding in the slips - Do not try to anticipate.

   Alertness is the key to good fielding and the lack of it has been the cause of many a team's failure.

   Fitness is hugely important & lack of conditions is more noticeable in the field than anywhere else. Training is a must to acquire flexibility & strength. Each one should have a set regime, as no two bodies are similar.

   Dismiss from your mind any thoughts that fielding is drudgery. It can be a great deal of fun and could make a vital difference to the fortunes of your team.

   Lastly - Enjoy fielding! There isn't a more effective way in which to become a good fielder!