Why are there so many poor fielders despite fielding taking up more time in a game than any other skill?
There is a conflict: Fielding is a selfless act. You don't get credit in the score book for saving runs. A couple of catches is no match winning bowling spell.
Fielding is the last thing many players want to do and as a result, they suck.
The answer is to take a shortcut to not sucking anymore. The team are happy because you are instantly better and you are happy because it took a lot less work than you thought, giving you all the more time to work on your other skills.
Here is what you do:
1. Use your anticipation
True great fielders are fast and athletic with soft hands. That's not exactly easy to come by (although it's possible with the right effort in the right places). While you are getting better at that you can instantly improve by turning on your radar.
Say you are at cover. Like all good cover fielders you walk in a few steps as the bowler delivers the ball.
A fielder with good anticipation is turning his attention to the batter.
Are they shaping up to play a drive? If so you may hang back a little, covering more area like a goalkeeper trying to save a penalty. Also ready to turn and chase if it goes past.
Perhaps they are looking to work a gap for a single. Instead of hanging back you are leaning forward, ready to sprint in, pickup and throw down the sumps in a spectacular run out.
Anticipation is really nothing more than advanced common sense. It's just a matter of staying alert to the game situation when the ball is in play and trying to second guess where it might go.
2. Buy a tennis ball
This season I have been including some tennis ball drills as part of my warm ups before moving onto a hard ball. It has resulted in more catches in games because everyone has trained themselves to catch more softly as a result.
All you need to recreate this is a cheap tennis racket, a couple of tennis balls and 5 minutes of catching at various heights. Then move onto a few catches with a hard ball and you are done.
Admittedly, to be a really good fielder there is far more to it. You need to have the skills as well as the anticipation and warm ups.
Still, a bit of smoke and mirrors might just give your team the edge while you make up the slack with some proper practice.
Photo credit: Andrew K Brown