A lot is asked of the club cricketer, especially when they’re at cover one week and point the next. Thankfully, Surrey and England fielding coach Chris Taylor is on hand with his handy guide to fielding in “the ring” to prepare you for wherever you might find yourself on Saturday.
You generally find when someone dives that everyone says ‘great effort’ and there’s applause. For me, you expect people to throw themselves around in the field. So the standards are: get the ball in your hand all the time, to not just stop the two but maybe even stop the single. And can you turn saving a run into a run out opportunity? Then, slowly but surely, the language the players use with each other starts to change.
There’s going to be a big improvement if a team enjoy being out there and getting stuck in. The players are responsible for that to a degree but so are the coaches. You should hear a lot of noise throughout the session. Maybe add some kind of competition into the drills – teams or players against each other, so they get involved and get into the spirit.
The most important thing in the inner ring is to release the ball as quickly as possible. It’s a race between the batsman and the fielder.
A lot is made of players throwing with their arm at a lower angle and, while it is quicker, the injury implication (elbows and shoulders) and the lackof accuracy mean it is not worthwhile. Instead, persist with the over-the-shoulder throw but work on your speed of release, without compromising your technique. To do this, you will need to work on getting your feet realigned as quickly as possible.
THROWING DRILL: QUICK RELEASE
Get a coach or teammate to roll the ball to you three or four metres away. While you will field the ball as you normally would, you are NOT allowed to move your feet until you have the ball in your hand.
As soon as the ball is in hand, use short, fast movement of your back foot to set yourself. Then release the ball, over-the-shoulder, at one of the targets set up on your left or right. Make sure you focus on getting in line with the target as quickly as you can.
With a variety of aerial and flat catches in this region, it is important to adopt an athletic position. Be in a stable position with your head and eyes level, whether at slip, in the inner ring or taking a catch on the boundary. If you’re as stationary as possible then you’ll give yourself a chance to set yourself.
Often, catches come flat and quick, so you’ll have to take them outside your body, while on the move. In this instance, focus on moving your head first, especially when taking a catch away from your body, because then your legs will follow.
If you can, get your hips and shoulders in line with the ball and aim to take the catch in front of you. Try not to throw your hands at the ball or give unnaturally – let the force of the ball determine how far back your hands move on impact. Repetition of these sorts of catches in training will help all these movements become second nature.
In the cordon
Like batting, if your stance is flawed, your ability is hampered. In the slips, we talk about adopting a posture position similar to that of a wicketkeeper standing back, with your hands out in front. This position enables you to move quickly, cover your zone and still be ready to dive.
WHAT TO WATCH
As a general rule of thumb, the wicketkeeper and first slip should watch the ball from the bowler’s hand. But, from second slip to gully, you should be watching the bat, as the ball will have to take a sizeable deviation to reach you.
A lot of it is conditioning, actually. The position you need to adopt is a hard one to sustain; as a result, people get lazy and don’t maintain their posture and that’s when they drop catches, 10 or 11 overs into the match. Just like batting, have your routines that help you relax between balls and then switch on for those two seconds for the delivery.
From walking in, get into a crouched yet athletic position, so that you can react to whatever’s happened. My view is don’t think about setting, just walk through the shot and react to what you see. The more you practise it, the better you’ll get.
WHAT TO WATCH
Always the batsman from here; when you see them setting up for a cut shot, you automatically get “set” to either try and take a catch or stop a ground ball. If you see them ready to play a defensive shot and drop the ball, you will find yourself running on to it in a bid to stop the single.
Just as when fielding at point. For here, you’re in a very specific position in front of the bat, in an area where the batsman wants to hit. Treat walking into position as you would if you were marking out your run-up. Figure out your finishing point and determine where you start walking in from, depending on the bowler.
WHAT TO WATCH
Watch the batsman but be aware of where the bowler has delivered the ball. Generally you can tell by the shape the batsman is making before he plays a shot but, if you can, try and pick up the length that the bowler has bowled.
IMPROVE RING FIELDING: HALF-VOLLEY DRILL
As coach I stand with a bat and a bag of balls – using incrediballs allows you to do lots of catching without hurting your hands – and hit half volleys to the fielder.
This way you get used to seeing the shape of the batsman and the way the ball comes off the bat. It really recreates what happens in the middle. I’ll stand there with a batting glove and bag of balls and just hit drives to them. And maybe even use a Katchet board ramp to simulate different deviations.
With the cover region, you can add goals that the fielder has to defend. Maybe even throw two players in an area and tell them to take catches or stop balls going past them. It inevitably turns into some kind of competition with the coach!