Fielding, especially for young players, is the ugly sister of playing cricket.
You can stand there all day with nothing coming to you and then have the confidence to take the winning catch: Even when the ball seems to hang in the air for hours. It's the putting together of boredom with microscope like attention.
Who would enjoy that?
Yet many players do. They approach the day as an opportunity to test their self confidence, concentration, skill and anticipation. For them fielding is the opportunity to win the game with a great catch or run out.
It's easy to say fielding is underrated. To say we should all work on it more. It's simple for the captain to tell their team to switch on in the field and stay focused. Yet I have seen games where attention drifts, heads go down and catches are shelled.
No one can enjoy fielding in those circumstances.
So what is the secret to really enjoying it?
1. Work on your skills
All the pep talks and one liners in the world are no good unless you put in the work beforehand. If there is a secret to enjoying your fielding its: A genuine change in attitude brought about through becoming an excellent fielder.
Everyone can improve. Everyone can become more athletic, be able to dive and learn how to catch more than they drop. Every time you take a catch or make a stop in practice you are learning to do it in the middle.
As yourself: Do I dislike fielding because I want to hide in the field as my skills below par?
If the answer is yes, even a tiny bit, then it's time to make fielding the focus of your practices. The better you become the more you will enjoy showing off your skills.
2. Shift your focus
Another area that you may not enjoy is the waiting. You can get a lot of time between balls to field. It's easy to drift off, feeling like the game is far away and you are no longer involved.
This is where your ability to tune in and out of the game becomes vital.
Some people call it switching on and off between balls but it's better to look at it as a more subtle shift of focus. Nobody can give their full attention for an entire innings in the field, but you can shift your attention to ration it out.
You only need to be fully switched on for a second as the ball is delivered. In fact, if you are grazing down at third man during a long match you probably never need to give your full attention. Just enough to make sure you are ready when the ball comes to you. The rest of the time you can lower your focus. Some fielding positions allow you to turn off almost totally while others benefit from a little more attention even when the ball is dead.
For a detailed breakdown of what type of attention you need in different fielding positions, enrol on my mental training course on PitchVision Academy.
3. Talk to the captain
The attention trick works well, but if you find yourself still 'on your heels' in the field you may want to try and get yourself a new challenge by changing fielding positions. A few overs at gully or midwicket when you have been strolling from mid on to fine leg is bound to revitalise you and stave off the boredom.
The best way to do this is have a quiet word with the captain between overs. He or she will no doubt have a lot more on their mind than where you field, so will probably swap you straight away. That way they don't have to think about it too much.
You can also have a pact with an equally skilled team mate to swap positions if you are not getting the ball much. It's important to pick someone of roughly equal skill so you don't upset the captain's brilliantly set field. It's also best to clear this with the captain before the game. If you are trusted they will say yes.
4. Visualise success
If you have worked hard enough on your skills you will automatically be more confident when the chance comes for a run out or catch. You can boost this even further by combining your practice with imagined success.
It's been shown in sport psychology that the more you imagine performing your skills correctly, the more likely you are to do well on the field. You can find out more about why this works and what to do on my mental training for cricket course.
Enjoying fielding is a combination of having good skills (skills that anyone can develop) and a sound mental approach. It's all too easy to say fielding is important yet not work on it with any passion or energy. Don't be one of those people who hate fielding because it's 'boring'. It's not if you do it right.