1. “It’s all about being energetic”
It’s not. Fielding is as much about staying still as it is about moving!
Being fast and agile will give you more potential to impact the game. But composure will determine whether you consistently take that catch or run out chance.
Without composure, the ball never sticks to your hand! It should be highlighted lots in training. You do not want the ball to burst through their hands (unstable base), or “colliding” with the ball (still sprinting as ball hits your hand).
DRILL FOR UNDERSTANDING: “Fast – Slow – Fast”
I use this drill to teach fielders when to rush, and when to take their time. Use FAST BOBBLE FEEDS – skid the ball into the players from a low start (kneel down to feed the balls)
- “FAST”: ATTACK THE BALL in the 1-2 seconds available, try and close down the gap as much as they can
- “SLOW” – When the ball is about to hit your hand, get steady! Your priority shifts from moving fast, to being as still as possible.
The better you get at fielding, the less time you have to allow for getting yourself steady. But for an average young player, I usually say to begin this process 1 second before the ball reaches them.
- “FAST” – When the ball is securely in the hand – and it MUST BE IN YOUR HAND FIRST!! – speed up again! Shift body in direction of target (NOT just arms) and release.
Make sure that the player is rotating their body, and not “lunging” towards their throwing target.
If you see your players “over-reacting” to relatively simple stops, point it out! If you see them taking the “easy way out” (sitting back, to get more time), point it out!
2. “ALWAYS/NEVER ………”
Cricket is chaotic. No two situations are identical. The amount of time you have varies greatly, and the situation could change at any second.
Therefore, it is very difficult to give absolute rules. Fielders need to be EMPOWERED to make decisions. Hard throw/soft throw/under-arm/over-arm. And to do this effectively, they need to look up, and evaluate what is going on.
My belief is that fielding coaching, much like batting, is about giving players all the options – types of movements and actions. It is up to them decide when and where to use each.
So many run outs are missed as a result of throwing too hard, to the stumps instead of to hand, to the wrong end. Fielders need information – in the form of looking up, or effective communication – to decide what to do.
3. Ready = “walking in”
Players who walk every ball can still be “not ready”. This is because the walking in has to end in a “set”, or ready, position. If you don’t get set, even standing still would be better!
Look out for:
- “STAR-FISH” POSE – that moment when the ball is hit hard at a player….who isn’t completely ready. Both arms and legs stretch out, as they scramble to put them in the right place
- DROPPING TO KNEES – players who are still walking in as the ball is hit, will have their feet too close together. A low, hard shot will be impossible to stop, unless they fall to the floor. It SHOULDN’T be necessary
- RUNNING FORWARDS….THEN WHERE THE BALL IS – when forced to react fast, some players start running forwards before they move left or right. In this split second, it becomes impossible to stop some balls. Reason: they are still walking in.
A close fielder needs to be primed to move in ANY DIRECTION. That requires stillness as the bowler releases the ball.
Being “properly” ready means a SET POSITION:
– on toes,
-poised to spring in any direction (not just forwards!)
-weight loaded slightly forwards (balanced, but if you nudged the back of their head, they would start to topple)
Look closely at your teams when fielding. Are they “ready”? Or are they just “watching”?
4. Aiming = pointing arms at target
Lining your feet up, is more important than aiming. Feet help get your whole body in the right angle. it is the difference between aiming at a target, versus just waving in its direction!
There is no point in telling players to “aim” over and over. Make sure they are aiming properly and fully. Look out for….
THROWING WHILE ON THE MOVE – if your players is still jogging after their throw, that throw will have no real force behind it….and is also likely to be wayward.
Work on “anchoring” the back foot. This helps a thrower stop their momentum, and throw their body weight towards the target. With practice it becomes possible to swivel on this foot, then push towards the target, all in one movement.
THROW FLYING OVER KEEPER’S HEAD – happens when players never point their body to the target. This poor angle results in a sling instead of a proper throw.
Work on a fast “swivel”, using their core muscles to fully rotate.