From time to time, guests will give you a slightly different take on cricket. This post is by Jason Jones.
Catches don't come much better looking than a full-stretch dive: Something that is still a dark art at club level. Why is this?
- Not all club players are trim twenty or thirty-somethings any more - a possible cause for this is that a beer belly does not make for particularly good aerodynamics.
- Those that are capable of diving choose not to - either because they are worried about injury or because they feel it makes no difference.
- Those that can dive and do, usually don't do it properly - leading to dropped catches, missed stops or even worse, injuries.
This guide is written to provide fielders with a few simple guidelines to help them firstly decide when to dive, and secondly, when they do, how to do it with minimum risk and maximum success.
When to Dive
Only dive as an absolute last resort. The reason diving catches are so highly regarded is because they are so difficult to get right. Once your body is flying through the air, you have no way of adjusting your angle, your head won't be straight, and you're constantly falling towards the ground - not to mention the added problem of holding onto the ball as your entire body crashes into the ground.
If you have a chance of taking a catch either standing or running, this will always be preferable to a dive attempt. Nothing will irk a bowler more than a wannabe-Collingwood shelling a good catching chance by diving when he should have stayed on his feet.
As a rule, there should only be three times a fielder should even consider diving:
- When the ball is going to pass 1-2 metres either side of the fielder, between head and knee height, and there is not enough time to adjust position.
- The ball is going to pass above head height, and there is not enough time to move backwards.
- The ball is going to drop 1-2 feet in front of the fielder, and he does not believe he will be able to reach it in time by staying on his feet.
The major factor is time. I believe that diving should be seen as a reflex movement. If you have enough time to think "shall I dive for this?" the answer is more than likely no.
Diving Horizontally (Goalkeeper's Dive)
The most spectacular dives are always the ones where a fielder who looked beaten suddenly launches themselves sideways and plucks the ball out of the air. These are the most difficult to get right and the highest-risk as the landing is concentrated on one side of the body. It's easy to land on the 'underneath' arm if not done correctly.
The first thing you should do is to start moving. Watch any fielder renowned for their diving and note that the first movement is with their feet. It's close to impossible to dive any distance sideways from a flat standing position, and the impact of landing will be greater, as your weight is coming directly down as opposed to at an angle. You should look to take at least two sidesteps in the direction you wish to dive, as this will not only give you extra momentum to propel yourself further, it will mean your angle of impact is less steep, and help lessen the force with which you hit the ground.
The next step is to judge the trajectory of the ball. As with any catch, the best place to have the ball is level with your eyes. You will be looking to dive at an angle so that your head is the same level as the ball as it gets to you. This is important, as this is the same level you want your arms to be at.
Now you should be looking to take off. Your 'take-off foot' should always be the one on the side you are diving - for example, if you were aiming to dive to the right, you would be looking to bring your LEFT foot off the floor first, as you will be using your right (the take-off foot) to give you one final push for maximum height and distance. Your arms should be brought up from your sides, coming together and moving to go up above your head. This motion is similar to the bringing together of the arms in the breaststroke in swimming, but imagine you are trying to swim upwards. It's a difficult motion to explain, but watch what a goalkeeper does in football just before he dives, and you won't be far wrong.
As both feet leave the floor, your arms should be almost fully extended above your head, in line with where the ball is going to be when it reaches you. Try and keep your legs close together, but not quite touching, this will help your overall balance, and help ensure you land as comfortably and smoothly as is possible.
If you have done everything correctly up to now, you should be in with a good chance of intercepting the ball. Ideally, as with any other catch, you want to be getting two hands behind the ball, although obviously this is not always going to be possible. If you do have to attempt a one-handed catch, as soon as your catching hand closes around the ball, you should look to bring your other hand up to meet it, as this not only increases the chance of you holding onto the ball, but reduces the risk of your trailing arm being trapped underneath your body as you land.
Now, the bit nobody likes - the landing. The idea is to spread your bodyweight across as large an area as possible, therefore no one body part takes too much of the impact. This is the cause of 80% of injuries from diving - the fielder does not spread the impact zone enough, and as such takes their entire bodyweight on their hip or shoulder.
There are two schools of thought on the best way to do this, and each has its pros and cons.
The first is to land with your body as straight as possible, with your hip, shoulder and bottom leg all hitting the dirt at the same time. The main drawback to this kind of landing is the fact that your hands are unlikely to be underneath the ball, and the jolt of landing is more likely dislodge it from your grasp. However, it is relatively easy to get right.
The other (and in my view, better) method is to rotate your body on the way down so that you land on your chest/forearms and facing away from the direction the ball came from. This not only spreads your bodyweight across your entire torso, greatly reducing the risk of a bone-jarring bump, it also allows you to get both hands right underneath the ball. The obvious downside to this is that it requires a bit more agility, and therefore is a little more difficult to get right. Also, this method becomes harder to execute correctly as the angle of your dive gets shallower.
This is probably the simplest 'dive' to get right, mainly because it requires the least agility - strictly speaking, it's not even really a dive, more of a leap. The situation this is most likely to be used in is the slips, often following an edge to a sharply rising ball, although it can be used anywhere if the situation requires it.
The first thing you need is a good strong vertical leap. If your body is in the correct position for fielding in the slips, your knees should already be slightly bent, so use this to your advantage. The idea is to leap as high as you can, but very slightly backwards as well. Your body should be at about an '11 o'clock' angle, with your hands well above your head. As you reach the apex of your jump, look to bend your knees and bring them up towards your body - not too far up though, or you'll lose your balance. This will allow you to control your landing much better when the time comes.
You should be looking to intercept the ball just as your body reaches the apex of your jump. Meet the ball too early, and you'll still be rising, and the ball will hit the bottom of your hands and drop. Too late, and you'll be falling down and away from the ball.
Once you've got the ball, it's time for the landing. If you bent your knees earlier, you have two choices. Either the standard landing, or you can rotate your body again in a similar way to the Horizontal Dive.
If you didn't bend your knees, you still have a good chance of landing well. The first thing that hits the floor should be your feet. Don't attempt to stand, as if you dived backwards, your momentum will carry you over backwards, and as anyone who has ever hit the back of their head on the pitch will tell you, it hurts! Instead, allow your knees to crumple, and bend your body forwards. You should find yourself rolling back naturally onto your backside and then your back. Then bring your head forwards to avoid hitting it on the floor as you land, and start the celebrations.
Once again, a relatively simple dive to get right if you know how, although if you get it wrong, you not only look silly, but can get some nasty friction burns on your chest and elbows. The biggest thing to avoid here is the 'belly-flop', as not only will you be the subject of much ridicule or derision from your team-mates (depending on how important the shelled chance was!), you can also wind yourself quite badly, which although not incredibly dangerous, is still an uncomfortable experience, and one I'm sure you will want to avoid.
As with the Horizontal Dive, this dive requires that you are moving before you take off. As the idea of this dive is to intercept a ball that is dropping in front of you, your movement should be forwards. As you get closer to the ball, start to bend over whilst still running. Ideally, you want to be as low as possible whilst still making sure you are balanced. This takes some getting used to, so I recommend practicing this a bit before unveiling it in a match situation. Now, as you get to within a few metres of the ball, it should be roughly level with your eye line (remembering that you are nearly bent double). At this point, start to lean your bodyweight forwards whilst straightening up at the waist. You should start to overbalance forwards, which is exactly what you want to be doing. Just as you reach the point of no return, give yourself a good push forwards with whichever leg is best placed to do so at the time (preferably your stronger leg, for obvious reasons), and throw your arms forwards and out in front of your head, roughly level with your eyes.
Bring your hands together to catch the ball, and prepare for the landing. You should be looking for your elbows and forearms to hit the floor first, as they will act as shock absorbers for when the rest of your body arrives at ground level. If your chest hits the floor first, the impact will be a lot harder, and you run a small risk of spilling the ball, as your arms will be jolted upwards as you make contact with the outfield.
If you follow these instructions and practice, practice, practice you will find that you start to hang on to a lot more of the difficult chances, and also notice that Monday mornings are a lot less painful than usual.
Of course, as I mentioned at the start, you should never dive if you think there is a good chance that you will be able to reach the ball by staying on your feet, because as much as everyone will love you for taking a blinding catch at second slip, you'll find you become a lot less popular with your team-mates if you keep diving and dropping when a level head and some quick feet would have sufficed.
If you want even more fielding techniques, tactics and animated drills from one of the best fielders in the world, check out Fielding: The Derek Randall Way on PitchVision Academy.
© Copyright miSport Holdings Ltd 2008