One of the easiest ways to improve your fielding is by working on low inner ring catches.
It's easy because it's so often overlooked at training. In general, we focus on stopping balls on the ground and catching skyers. Yet in games, many catching chances come at knee height or lower.
With a more systematic approach, and focus on the right drills, you will find this area improves rapidly.
Low catching practice
So, the first step is to make sure you take low catches as part of your fielding routines and drills. When it comes to catching, the more you do the better you get, so put in lots of work simply catching balls at this height.
Catching is, above all, a numbers game.
In my fielding sessions, I like to put the low catching between the infield pickup and throw, and the flat, chest high catch. After encouraging players to run in, pick up and return from about 30 yards away, I get them to come in closer to take a catch at knee height.
You can do this with,
- Underarm feeds (more accurate, less speed so good for technique)
- Bat or fielding bat.
- Katchet ramp.
It takes some practice for the feeder to get this right, especially with a fielding bat. If the ball is not hit hard enough it bounces in front of you and risks an unpleasant bounce. Where you can, practice on a true surface and use a reliable feeder.
It's common to see fielders line up in front of the coach who feeds it straight back off the bat or ramp. This is convenient, but not the same angle as a game. So, make sure you use different angles too. The coach can set up to drive, cut and pull with a reliable feeder and a bit of practice.
You can also adapt this nicking drill by replacing the slips with gully, backward point and point. The coach can cut the ball to practice a low catch that is match realistic for those positions.
Low catching technique
When you first start practicing, and then at regular intervals, it's important to develop a technique that suits you. In general, the technique is very similar to slip fielding; you have a stable base, ready to move, level eyes and an open hand position with fingers pointing down. However, there is variability within this framework, and you may be more comfortable in a different position than the next player.
Generally, there are two groups.
The first have a shorter walk in, a wide stance and a low position. They tend to keep their chin up when catching.
The second and more dynamic, leading with the head. They walk in further, stay more upright and tend to "nod the ball in" when they catch.
Experiment with these methods and see which is more comfortable for you to catch the ball at knee height.
Then start ramping up that low catch volume.
The result will be more catches taken, happier bowlers and more matches won.