I am often asked if the "English" method of high catching (fingers down) is better than its "Australian" counterpart.
The simple answer is that both methods have their merits so I teach both because individual players have their own preferences. Also the ball arrives at us at different heights and angles. This in turn dictates which of the two methods is best to use when taking a catch.
With both methods, the vital consideration for a fielder is to use his footwork effectively to get under the flight of the ball as early as possible. So the first point is always to use footwork to get to the ball.
The advantage of the Australian method of catching is that it encourages fielders to make contact with the ball above their eye line. As a result, the fielder can watch the ball for longer as it goes into their hands and if a fumble occurs, he often gets a second bite at the catch.
It is important to create a big and strong catching area with the hands and this is achieved by placing your thumb and forefinger of one hand over the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. It creates a web like strong structure that no cricket ball can break.
The fingers are spread and the catching area is immense.
I often ask very young players to create their catching area with their hands and then place a ball in their open hands to show how "small" they can make the ball look in their huge catching area. This helps to build early confidence in the young players as they embark on a life of taking spectacular high catches.
Times when the Australian Method may not be the best option:
- When the ball's trajectory is dipping beneath the line of your shoulders (Flatter hit from the middle which is falling short of the fielder)
- When a dive is required
- When you’re running at full-tilt
The English method often works better in these instances.
The Australian method is tends to be used by fielders right on the boundary edge. Kevin Pietersen prefers this catching style and has taken a number of catches with the Australian style in his specialist mid on and deep mid on fielding position in ODI and T20 Cricket.
Again, a huge catching area is vital.
Interlink the two little fingers and butt together the heel of your hands to create the strong catching structure. Players often forget to spread the thumbs out and this is achieved by moving your elbows closer together.
Note the effect that the elbows have on the size and shape of the catching area.
As with the Australian catching method, players should be encouraged to raise their hands slightly above their eye line and for the head and hands to be in close proximity.
As we have discussed previously, the closer we keep our head and our hands, the more control we have over a catching opportunity.
Many players will start of making contact with the ball around their waistband and this is fraught with danger. Obviously, if we fumble the ball there is little chance of us getting a second go and also, it is very difficult to track the ball with our eyes once the ball has passed our eye line on its descent.
So take the ball at Eye Level whenever possible.
So going back to the original question; which one is better?
They are both highly valid methods and players should be coached to develop their skill in both techniques so that individual player can choose which one to use for any type of high or boundary catch.
It's a bit like a set of golf clubs, a golfer chooses the club that fits the shot distance that he/she is faced with. You can now choose the appropriate catch method to meet the catching challenge presented by the flight of the ball off the bat.
So encourage your players to master both Styles, have fun with your catching practices and watch the success of your fielding unit flow.