It’s not just “hands to the ball”: fielding coaching, done well!

Get your hands to the ball

What about the rest of you? Always remember, the hands are the last part of the catching process! Just like batting, you need to be near it first!

One of the most common mistakes coaches make when fielding, is one of the most fundamental….they watch the ball not the player! By the time they are watching the right things, it’s too late!

Have a close look at your players, to see if they are consistently right under or behind the ball!

GROUND FIELDING: Approach at the right angle! – Set off in the right direction. Either forwards, diagonally or side-to-side.

fielding side-to-side

  • SWIVEL – turning your feet quickly, so that instead of shuffling, the fielder can sprint to the ball
  • UPPER BODY FACING THE BALL – as the legs move quickly sideways, it is important that your upper body is facing forwards. Use your arms for balance
  • GETTING DOWN AT THE RIGHT TIME – get as close to the ball as you can, before you start to reach for the ball. Reaching out with your arms, or stooping too early, slows you down (meaning crucial distance lost)!

BOUNDARY FIELDING: Use the “Banana Run” – the “Banana Run” is a phrase I have coined, to explain the movement involved when you patrol the boundary.

When the ball comes off the bat, a fielder picks up the line first – “is the ball to my left or right”? This is the direction you set off in. Why? Because if the ball is struck hard, every millisecond counts. By “hugging” the boundary rope, you buy extra time to cover more ground….if you need it!

Later on you will pick up the length. This is where the “Banana Run” comes into play. If the ball is losing pace, and you can attack it, start to bend your run in-field.

It may only take 2 or 3 steps for you to realize you can attack the ball. But using this technique, you can be sure you are taking the exact path to the ball you need, saving crucial split seconds!

fielding banana run

  • AVOID – “Reverse Banana”, where the fielder runs in too early, realises they won’t cut off the ball at this angle and suddenly has to curve backwards.

CHASING TO BOUNDARY – the “Scoop & Roll” – If you chase the ball back towards the boundary, your body position is crucial.

Think about how you approach the ball. Remember that it’s not just getting to the ball that matters here, it’s keeping it off the boundary. Not an easy task when all your body’s momentum is hurtling forwards!

Make sure you approach the ball slightly to the side. This allows you to hook the ball off the boundary, with a rotating body. Benefits of this include

  • MORE “SURFACE AREA” – you can use your entire forearm to keep the ball off the ropes. More margin for error
  • LESS CHANCE OF “DOUBLE CONTACT” – you don’t want to scoop the ball into your own body….as this will take the ball back over the line
  • RECOVERING FOR THROW – this action allows you to tumble over, and spring back onto your feet straight away

HIGH CATCHING: “X Marks the Spot!” – some players idly walk forwards, and allow the ball to drift over their head. Others hesitate, and are too late to realize the ball is dropping out of reach.

A third group pick up the ball quickly, run 99% of the way, but miss the crucial FINAL step underneath the ball.

Catchers want to be in a position they can a) get their hands to the ball, and b) cushion it with their arms, shoulders and knees (not just their hands).

FLAT CATCHING – Swaying Body – Move your hands to the ball, but make sure your body moves into line as well!

  • Bend “leading leg” (one closest to ball) – like batting, this will let your body move in line, and not get stuck
  • Steady “trailing leg” – don’t let it slide around, as this will turn your body

Not so good technique:

Net Matches: ways to make your net sessions more realistic

Here are a few ways I use to instill a little realism in nets. 

Nets can meander unless you have a clear purpose. I am always keen to set some more specific goals. 

The “3-Strikes” Game

  • Normal nets
  • When the batter plays a wild slog, or commits a silly error, they LOSE 1 STRIKE
  • When the batter is dismissed, they LOSE 1 STRIKE
  • When the batter loses 3 strikes, they are OUT (and the next batter can start padding up).

Logic: players will make mistakes, but repeated errors – or “throwing in the towel” – are a problem.

I use this game to give batters a chance to recover from their mistakes, in a way that “out-and-you’re-out” nets do not. It is training after all, and players are working on one thing or another.

**It is important that strikes are only deducted for SILLINESS, and not for small mistakes (eg/ if the bowler produces a brilliant ball, the batter shouldn’t be penalized)**

Net match

There are any number of variations you can use for this. Sometimes, I even score a net match like a real game – set fields and award runs based on them!


  • 2 V 2 MATCH
    – 3 wickets per pair
    – Set amount of time for innings
    – If pair 1 is bowled out early, pair 2 gets their remaining time to bat


  • connor matchPitch Map
    – Measure where each bowler is landing their balls, to which batters
    – You can see whether patterns emerge. Is your team bowling too short? Where are most the balls going? Does this change at different stages of an innings?
  • Impact Points
    – This is my invented method to find out which balls a player is attacking, deflecting, defending or missing/edging/getting out to
    – It helps a coach to see patterns in a player’s approach, and figure out the reason behind weaknesses
    For more information, CLICK HERE
  • farazWagon wheels
    – Monitor where each batter is hitting the ball
    – Are there areas that each batter is playing shots to, or avoiding hitting shots to?


We use NX Cricket, for it’s useful breakdown of stats – including wagon wheels, “Manhattans”, run rate charts and personal data.




Bowling Grouping Challenge

The Bowling “Grouping” Challenge is a bowling game I use to encourage bowling consistency. I can also use it to bring up concepts such as the “best area” to bowl.

How it works

  • Teams work together: best in group of 2-4
  • 1 wicket keeper per group (rotates every minute)
  • Each group has 6-8 cones


  • FIRST 6-8 BALLS – players put a cone down where each ball pitches/lands

bowling grouping challenge 1


  • When all the cones have been put down, the team has a chance to “improve” their cluster
  • IF BOWLER BOWLS A GOOD BALL – the team can pick up their worst cone, and replace it
  • IF BOWLER BOWLS A BAD BALL – the team can leave the cones alone

bowling grouping challenge 2


  • Whoever has the tightest cluster of cones
  • Whoever’s cluster of cones in in the best area (most accurate)

Bowling “4-Ways”: helping bowlers focus on one thing at a time

There is a lot going on with a bowling action! So how do we coach it without bombarding our players with information?!

With such a bewildering list of potential flaws, it is easy to “lurch” from statement to statement – “get your arm higher” one ball, “keep your chin up” the next.  But in order to improve consistently, player’s need consistent feedback.

This “4-Ways” Bowling Session is one way of keeping a consistent message. It also prompts your players to think on their feet – moving from “what” went wrong” to “why”.


Divide your group up into 4 teams. Each team rotates around the 4 activities below (about 10-15mins on each).



  • Target Area: from “good length” (about 5-6m from the wickets), to the batting crease (“yorker” length)
  • Coaching Theme: height and balance. Making sure your bowlers a) get up tall, and b) stay tall through their action
  • Get Them Thinking: what MAKES the ball come out “too early” or “too late”. These statements mean nothing on their own….releasing the ball isn’t a conscious thing!


  • Target Area: between middle stump and “5th/6th stump (2 or 3 imaginary stumps outside)
  • Coaching Theme: run-up and the correct angles. Making sure bowlers are concentrating their effort to the target
  • Get Them Thinking: what makes the ball go straight, left or right? To many young bowlers have no idea how to diagnose these flaws


  • Target Area: Bull’s Eye, Small & Large Targets (more points the closer to the Bull’s Eye)
  • Coaching Theme: Focus on where to “pitch” (bounce) the ball. Do they have a firm eye on the EXACT target from start to finish?
  • Get them Thinking: a) Am I looking at the right target (spot on the pitch)? b) Am I always looking at that spot?


  • Target Area: get players bowling to keeper’s hands
  • Coaching Theme: momentum! Moving forwards in a smooth and constant way, from start to finish!
  • Get Them Thinking: is my bowling action smooth? Or am I jerky (stop-start)? Any change in effort, pace or intensity should be gradual.




  • BOWLING LENGTHTOO EARLY: the ball must have slid out of the hand as it is coming over. This could be because of
    – Leaning to the side – which means the fingers are no longer behind the ball
    – Wrist position – everything could be right, but a “floppy” wrist could undo it all!
    – Poor gather – look to see if your bowler is preparing their arms correctly. If the arms are out to the side, their action will be more of a “sling”
  • TOO LATE: nearly always because a bowler is falling down
    – Legs collapsing – look for bent knee. This will make it impossible for a bowler to stay tall
     – Back bending – look at the run-up, for signs of “stooping”
    – Arms lifting to sky – what goes up, must come down! Make sure that a player’s arms are up AND IN FRONT OF THEM. Not vertically upwards, and dragging their body to the floor
    – Legs stopping – keep the legs driving “throught the crease”. Look to see if a bowler’s knees are high, so they have support for their body each step.



  • BOWLING LINELEG-SIDE (ASSUMING RH BATTER & BOWLER): usually this is caused by a bowler’s arm dropping down
    – Use shoulders more – you need your shoulder working to get your bowling arm higher. Are your bowlers’ shoulders “engaged”?
    – Poor aiming – if your aiming arm is lazy, your body can “open up”. This will mean you can’t drive your arm properly to the target
    – Not “completing” the action – if the bowling arm is slowing arm, is begins to droop. Result = balls fall to the leg-side. Make sure your bowling arm carries on until it is pointing behind you.
    – Delivery stride – if the last step is across your body, is blocks you from bowling the ball to the target
  • OFF-SIDE: caused by a twisting body, that pulls the ball to this direction
    – Delivery stride – get your front foot and leg pointing to the target. The body needs this leg for support. Without it, you will fall away to the side
    – Twisting shoulders – your shoulders need to move in a “vertical plane” (eg/ right arm up and over, left arm down and under). When they move in a “horizontal plane” (eg/ twisting round”), the bowling action becomes more of a discus throw.



  • RUN-UP – is my run-up balanced, allowing my head (the heaviest part of the body) to be stable
    – Stooping – sometimes a bowling action is ruined from the first step of the run-up!
    – Poor running style – look out for knees and heels. Are they staying in line?
  • JUMP – am I stable “in-flight”? or am “falling” into my bowling action?
    – Arms and legs “inside the vehicle”! –
  • FOLLOW-THROUGH – am I able to see where the ball hits the pitch? Could i pinpoint exactly where it landed? If I can’t, then why (have I fallen or leant to the side)?


  • DECELERATING – a bowler is more likely to bowl a ball that drops short or “sits up” to be hit
  • SUDDEN BURST OF EFFORT – straining to hard for speed.
  • LEGS – each step needs to be a similar length and at a similar “rate”.  Check to see if your bowlers are moving smoothly from one step to another, not “putting the brakes on” (pause between steps, often caused by lunging forwards), or “shuffling” (series of short steps, that lose the momentum you built up).

How to create successful fielders: it’s more than technique

 Fielding isn’t just a skill. It’s a state of mind.

Despite being no more than a middling standard club cricketer, there is one part of the game in which I have always been able to stand out….fielding!

Through countless of hours of solo practice, and actually enjoying the art, I managed to develop high competence levels in any position – from the covers to short-leg.

Deep consideration of the discipline….how it is taught, how it can be generalised, and where teams go wrong with their approach to fielding….has also given me some insight into coaching fielding.

Is a reason why many teams who pocket every catch in training, can’t replicate it on the field? Despite hours of practicing “soft hands”, why does everybody’s grip seems to tighten under pressure? Players who are very competent at catching, frequently panic, when a crucial wicket depends on it.

Finally, is there anything we can do about it? Below are a few insights, from a lifetime is devotion to fielding, and being driven mad at club training sessions by the same fatal errors.

Why practice does not always make perfect?!

The common reasons for this is as follows:

a) Mis-diagnosing the causes of drops – typically, when a catch is grassed, everybody looks to the player’s hand position. Did they cushion the ball?; were they in the right place; were they together?

However if you look elsewhere, or trace the movements back to the beginning, you will often find the CAUSE of the drop, not just the SYMPTOM.

Start looking at the following instead:

  • Positioning – you can’t cushion the ball if you are too far away from it! Not only getting in the right position, but getting there as early as possible (so you can make small adjustments if the ball swerves).
  • Stability – you are best off looking at the feet first. Did the player steady themselves and have both feet planted? Rate your player’s “composure levels” as they catch.
  • Readiness – again, you’ll have no chance of taking a reflex catch if your hands arent in front of you, and palms facing the batsman. Sounds obvious, but this is commonly forgotten.

b) Judging success in training by the RESULT, forgetting the TECHNIQUE – in short, when a catch comes your way in training, you are more relaxed. The opposite is true when you are under a high ball in a match. 

With the higher stakes, and added pressure, your catching technique is under more scrutiny. Here is where you rely on the instincts and muscle memories from your body.

So where you may not be able to perfectly replicate this pressure….you definitely can take a perfectionist approach to training. Have your players perfectly centred themselves underneath the ball? Are their hands ready WELL IN ADVANCE of the catch? Did they keep the rest of their body perfectly still, or over-react as the ball hit them?

You must focus on the process, not the result! Getting the catches just right, is 100 times more important than doing your drills harder and faster.

In training,you may often find me being more harshly critical of some catches than dropped catches. While this sounds stupid, catching in a casual way in training is worse than no practice at all.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE – players often appear to be “scared of the ball”, when in fact they simply need confidence in their technique. For these players, you need to gently crank up the intensity and difficulty level, allowing them time to be more assured movements. Macho high catches will simply ruin their prospect of ever reaching this point. It’s more than about just “being brave”.

c) Panic – Nothing prepares you for that jolt of surprise and adrenaline, when the ball comes your way all of a sudden! 

In training, our focus is largely on “massed practice”. There is a certain formula to the drills….even if the feeding is random, you “know” the ball will find its way to you soon.

This is a difficult aspect of cricket to coach. The fact is that it takes time; building a mindset here is more important than flawless technique.

  • Good habits – always down and always pointing hands to ball
  • Team ethic – through positive atmosphere, everybody is automatically slightly more confident, alert and ready.
  • Togetherness – the feeling that we all field “as one”, sharing in each other’s good moments, is vital.
  • Sense of control – a player’s “body language” has a significant effect or the performance of every individual….this is hugely under-valued in its importance.

Don’t be that person who ends up diving or sprawling when they don’t need to. Don’t let that ball burst through your hands, because they are snatching at the last moment. Be calm at the right times.

Activities for “match pressure” catching

A favorite drill of mine is the “bowl a team out” slip catching game

Ideal group: 5-8

How it works:

Arrange the field around a batsman. Ideally a keeper, slip(s), gully, point, cover and short-leg. One person in the group is a “feeder”, throwing balls at the batsman who “edges” the ball.

The aim of the game is to take 10 wickets, all by catches….for the least number of runs possible.

This switches the focus from simply catching the ball, to retrieving it as well (I like to call it “finishing the job”). There is now an incentive to stop everything as well as catch. If the ball runs between fielders, or is fumbled, their job is to recover the ball to the feeder as quickly as possible.

Once the group has “bowled out” the imaginary team. They have another go. Their new aim is to get all 10 wickets for less runs.

If you have time for a third attempt, add extra hurdles to make the feat more challenging.

  • Up the pace of the feeds
  • Less “genuine” catching chances – make them wait for the crucial moment
  • More balls into gaps




Batting coaching: what to say, when to say it?

Batting coaching. There are a hundred different things a coach can potentially say, every single ball. But which (if any) is the right one?

When coaching batting, it is incredibly easy to make yourself sound good. There are so many points to mention, coaches (if they are so inclined) can lurch from point to point every 5 seconds. What is more difficult, is:

  • Putting this into a process – not just speaking your mind each ball, but providing the right information at the right time.
  • Separating SYMPTOMS (WHAT a player did) and CAUSES (WHY they did it). 

It’s not all about technique

When batters make a mistake, they are usually told to “move your feet”, “keep your bat straighter”, “get in line”, etc.

This might be true. But what else comes into play. Which mental factors contribute to consistent and high quality shots.

Below is my coaching checklist – looking at judgement, temperament and even fitness, before bringing up technique.


How many players get told to “keep their bat straight”, when they have actually stepped in completely the wrong place? How many players can play the cut shot, the pull or leg-glances very well in practice, but don’t get them out during matchplay?

Did the player in the nets “play across the line” of the ball? Or did they mistake a leg-glance for a straight drive? Shot selection is a pre-requisite for technique. Without one, you can’t have the other.

Players are often a shadow of themselves in matches, compared to practice. A huge reason for this is that – for all their many skills – is poor or rash judgement.

  • Pre-empting a shot – as soon as a player is on the move, they are “married” to a certain type of shot. This might be the wrong shot!
  • Not picking up different lines and lengths – some batters simply don’t “see” the opportunity to play certain shots that they might be strong at. Picking the correct shot needs to be rehearsed and trained.

Case study: on-drive/straight-drive/off-drive

In this video, an U15 player is learning to pick up the line of the ball.

PROBLEM – with each play-and-miss, Sheraz is trying to step further, in order to meet the ball. In fact, this will make his struggle worse….as well as not being in line with the ball, he will be in a lower and more cramped position.

SOLUTION – working on shifting his weight across as well as forwards.





A lot of the time, the difference between a good shot and a poor shot is down to one simple thing – timing. Players who look agitated or rushed may come good sometimes, but will more often than not get themselves out.

  1. General timing – a majority of young players play their shots too early, either moving too soon, swinging too soon or both! The key to producing quality batters is helping them realize that they have so much more time than they believe. Before you comment on technique, ask yourself – ” were they able to use the technique”?
  2. “Previous ball” effect – players need to be treating each ball “on it’s merits”, before their technique comes into play. Look out for batters “over-compensating” (i.e/ trying to make amends for the previous ball, and not considering the current ball).
  3. Changes during the innings – look for patterns not just ball-by-ball, but during phases of an innings. When do your players begin to struggle, or throw their wicket away.
    EVERY batter will have a tough period to battle through, where their timing and execution is slightly off. Spotting the cause for this, and getting through, is crucial. Part of the secret is learning from yourself and past experiences. What is the usual reason for this flaw, and how do I fix it?

Case study: leg-glances

in the video below, a young opening batter is getting to grips with the leg-glance. This is a shot that requires technique, but above all, composure.

  • Balls 1 & 2 – the batter starts lurching across the crease, seeking room to hit the ball hard. The opposite of what is required.
  • Balls 3 & 4 – better and calmer approach to the ball. However, still trying to hit the ball, instead of trusting in a deflection.
  • Balls 5 & 6 – In ball 6 especially, the batter shows great composure to look for the faintest deflection.

In all of these scenarios, you can mention technique. But was technique the real issue, or just a symptom? Trust – that the pace of the ball is enough to score runs – is fundamental to this shot.


The average club coaching session lasts between 90 minutes and 2 hours. Many academy sessions run on longer. Cricket camps last the whole day. Players get tired.

When this happens, mentioning technique to a player is almost pointless. They simply aren’t physically able to perform it perfectly. There is no quick fix to get around this….the only solution is get fitter!

Dedicating coaching sessions to fitness is always controversial. Parents pay for their children to play, and have expectations of seeing them hit, bowl and catch….not run! To get around this, I use a mixture of challenges and skills games, with fitness blended in.

EXAMPLE: The cricket bleep test

I use this test to emphasize the importance of a) fitness and b) preparation. To repeat the straight drive over and over , players must have the endurance and balance to match their skill level.

The lazier a player gets….by leaving it til the last second to get ready….the more erratic the shots get.



Technique is the most common form of feedback. It is the easiest to observe. It is the easiest way for a coach to demonstrate their knowledge of the game. 

Of course, it is important to have a sound technique. But when giving technique feedback, always think first:

  1. Is this the right time? In a match, or in the nets, one ball may be greatly different from the next. Will you mentioning a very specific coaching point benefit the player right now? Or is it better working on it later, perhaps with some throw-downs.
  2. How do I phrase my feedback? To avoid my player a) over-compensating, or b) being hesitant, afterwards. In a net and match setting, players need to be thinking about the ball ahead, and not dwelling on the previous ball.
  3. What have I said before? Avoid lurching from point to point. Sometimes, withholding information until a bit later, is best. That doesn’t mean you ignore the flaw! it just means allowing someone to focus on one aspect, before adding the next.



Coaching Dilemmas: “nailing the basics” V “keeping things fresh”

Is it possible to combine the two? Yes! But you need imagination – lots of it!

They need it, but…

….they get distracted quickly! We know this is going to be an issue in 98% of junior sessions. There is no point being in denial! Even though they are the most effective, the “old school” methods may not work.

Even though the era of lining up the entire group to practice “shadow batting” – imaginary shots over and over – may be gone, that doesn’t change the fact that young players need to master basics! So what do we do?

The answer is NOT to give in to short attention spans! All this will achieve is in getting some improvement, but not permanent improvement. You will have to go over the very same topics every week, as they never have enough time to “embed”.

Nor is the answer to plow ahead with a “dry” activity that is doomed to fail. An activity is only effective if players “buy in” to it. it matters not one bit whether you are right in principle!

The secret to junior coaching. Getting your players to do the SAME THING, but making each activity LOOK DIFFERENT. “Frame” the basics in a series of subtlety different ways. A points challenge, a learning-based game, some small group drills.

TRICK THEM into doing what is good for them!! 

Example: grip, stance, backlift

Having a good “set-up” is essential! But as coaches know all too well, very few players get it right every time. Hands apart, feet “closed-off”. Leaning on the bat instead of holding it. All these contribute to mistakes as they play their shot. 

One problem with coaching the set-up, is that it is time consuming. Getting one person’s back-lift right draws attention away from the rest of the (possibly large) group. It can feel like sessions grind to a halt. 

Instead of using the individual terms, I tend to use the term “getting ready”, and base a whole session’s theme around it. Here is how I would try and keep young players motivated and engaged, but essentially thinking about the same thing over and over.

Demonstration – show from all angles what a perfect “ready” position looks like. Ask questions about why the hands go here/feet go there. I talk about the “science” behind getting a clean straight hit….especially the power of gravity to hit the ball a long way. “Was I trying that hard”? “What goes back (bat) must come forwards“.

Pairs batting: “drop feeds” – I enjoy using drop-feeds at first, as they demonstrate the importance of technique over brute force. The coach also has a chance to see from close up, making adjustments to the grip and stance.
Players put a cone down where there PB shot is – or their longest hit. They then aim to beat this distance by getting perfect “efficiency” with their shots.

Points challenge – moving to under-arm feeds.
Each player now has to try and hit the ball as straight and low as possible. 1 point for hitting the ball, 4 points for hitting past the bowler, 20 points for hitting the ball through a small goal behind the feeder.
**In indoor halls, i often award bonus points if the batter hits the skirting board around the bottom of the wall. This is a sign that players have hit through the ball with total control**

The “Ready” Game – this game involves the batters coming in to bat, having to set up properly, and then receiving a ball to hit. Explained in more detail below….

The “ready” game:

Once the children have some knowledge (best way to grip and stand), it’s time to put their independence to the test! Will they remember this in the excitement of a game?

I enjoy this game because players constantly have to go through the process of getting ready.

The “Ready Game” is a version of “Crazy Cricket” – a team-based game, where players aim to hit as straight and as far as possible.

crazy cricket 1
Setting up the game.
  • One batter is at the wicket. The batters are lined up, waiting to hit the ball.
  • The first batter hits the ball (3 attempts), then runs around the cones.
  • The fielding team chases the ball. The batting team get 1 run for every cone they pass BEFORE the bowler gets the ball back.

Each team has 5 wickets to play with. Wickets can be:

  • BOWLED – ball hits stumps
  • CAUGHT – fielder catches ball
  • NOT READY – if they have forgotten to use the correct stance, they are out

Depending on the age/experience/maturity of the players, I am sometimes less harsh at the beginning. Other useful reminders for your players include

  • HOLDING ONTO THE BALL – simply don’t release the ball until the batter has remembered to stand properly. This simple trick can cause them to think a bit harder.
  • “HANDS”/”FEET”/ETC – again, this is a prompt for the player to think. One step short of outright telling them to change their stance.
  • “WHAT HAPPENED THERE – bowl a difficult ball, and ask the player why they struggled to hit it. The reason is: they were never ready in the first place

Cricket Bleep Test

***This is a potentially useful drill, but only if you USE IT PROPERLY***

Here, the player’s goal is to strike the ball into a small target….while under a time pressure! One player hits. Their partner drops a ball for them to hit every 10 seconds!

  • 1st Ball – HIT (partner retrieves ball)
  • 2nd Ball – HIT AND RUN (to other side of hall and back)
  • 3rd Ball – HIT
  • 4th Ball – HIT AND RUN
  • 5th Ball – HIT
  • 6th Ball – HIT AND RUN
  • BATTER AND FEEDER SWAP PLACES (15 seconds to change roles)
  • SEQUENCE REPEATS (6 balls)

The point of this drill is to show the importance of “getting ready” in good time. Giving yourself time to get in the perfect stance, and not “coasting” the running (leaving things to the last minute), is the secret to consistent straight hits.

The players who grasped this managed to achieve many more hits through the goal.