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We all do it for long periods, but how often do we think about the tactics of fielding?

This week I examine attacking and defensive fielding methods in an effort to develop a 'best practice' for thinking fielders. Have a read and let me know what you think.

We also have a cricketing take on the US election and tips on both dealing with cramp and the strange world of cricket boots.

Finally, if you enjoy the miCoach articles and have used them to improve your game, please take 3 minutes to fill out this 3 question survey about it.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

Attack vs. defence: How your ground fielding can make your captain proud

Effective ground fielding is a hallmark of the fine fielder. Knowing when to aggressively seek the run out and when to be more circumspect will get you the results your captain and team mates expect from you.

The benefits are clear:
  • Defensive fielding can build pressure by drying up the runs.
  • Attacking fielding can lead to more run outs.

However, if you get it wrong it can end in failure with batting teams stealing runs they should never get and simple wicket taking chances missed.

I'm sure everyone has done it at least once. I know I have. You try to attack the ball at the thought of a run out and end up misfielding or misthrowing it totally, perhaps even giving away more runs.

Stories like this show that to the fielder wanting to impress, judgement of when to attack and when to defend is essential.

When to defend and when to attack

Most occasions call for a defensive approach. That is not to say passive or unaggressive, but the main priority is to safely stop the ball and return it accurately.

Generally speaking you would be more defensive in your approach when the batting team holds the upper hand such as with an old ball or during a big stand. Also, if the outfield is bumpy and unreliable.

When you are looking to defend you would pick the slightly slower but safer options:

  • Long barrier
  • Traditional chase and pickup
  • Throws for accuracy
  • Not risking 50/50 chance skied balls

On the other hand, attacking when the situation demands is riskier but carries greater rewards. The technique is useful in any situation but especially so when wickets are more important than runs. That way you can afford to give away the odd fluff in the attempt to get someone out.

I play and watch club games mostly and some of the outfields we have to deal with are terrible. Attacking on a poor outfield can be very risky. At worst a nasty bobble can harm you; at best you give away needless runs. For this reason we always talk about fielding strategy before the game to make it clear to each other what we expect.

Attacking techniques include:
  • Pouncing on the ball with one and two handed pickups
  • Sliding stop
  • Throws for speed
  • Risking 50/50 skied balls

It's vital to practice these time and time again: Not only with fielding drills but also in pressure situations. If you can perform the attacking skills under pressure practice you will miss less in a game.

Getting cues

Once you have a general principle in mind, feel free to switch at any moment you feel confident. You get this feel for switching from cues the batsmen and bowler are giving you.

Let's say you are fielding at cover point. You watch the bowler deliver the ball and see early it is short. In your peripheral vision you see the batsman shaping to play the cut shot. You have identified early the batsman is looking to play an attacking shot.

You set yourself low. Now you are ready to dive to save the ball, turn and chase anything wide of you or take a flat catch. You are in defensive mode.

Now think about the same situation but the ball is on a length. The batsman is moving forward, perhaps to drop the ball in front of him and stealing a single. Instead of setting up like before you make your walking in to a run and then a sprint as you attack the ball, pickup and shy at the bowlers end for a spectacular attacking run out.

I can just see your team mates calling you Jonty as they slap your back.

The difference was nothing to do with the game situation in that case. Instead it was your awareness of that ball. The first, an attacking shot, demanded defence first. The second demanded attack first. How quickly you pick this up from ball to ball will dramatically improve you fielding.

Staying in touch

 Another way of identifying whether to attack or defend is through your captain and team mates. I already mentioned it's worth talking about your overall strategy before the game. Perhaps certain players like to steal lots of singles so you would look to attack more. Others might like to hit fours and you can frustrate them out with a more defensive mindset.

As you field, talk to the fielders around you between balls.

  • How are they thinking about conditions and the two batsmen out there?
  • Should you try dropping back a couple of yards or sitting in closer?
  • Are you better of closer together or further apart?

On such small things games can turn. I'm sure you have seen such in your own matches. I know I have.

The captain and keeper set the overall tone too. Take instruction from the first as the former has the overall plan in mind while the latter sees the batsmen and conditions closer than anyone else on the field.

If you want to be the type of fielder a captain turns to, practice is the main way of course. But once you are well drilled in the skills of attack and defence, take the time to engage your mind on your tactical approach too.

If you get it right you will be getting the chance to turn games. What captain wouldn't love you if you did it right for them?

Image credit: pj_in_oz


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Is your cricket training like the US election (and where is your vote going)?

Whether you are in the USA or not, the decision of the next President is a critical one. The whole world feels the effects.

In a similar way to the US citizens, your choice has a far reaching influence. Only in this case it's on your aims to succeed as a cricketer.

Let's take a look at the candidates.
The 'John McCain'

In the US election, McCain can be seen as the safe, establishment candidate. He has a well established record and a generally conservative approach. As President he replaces a similar minded man in the White House. You know where you are with McCain.

In cricket training terms you could look on this as the player who does things the way that have always been done in the past.

  • Skill is the only thing that matters so spend lots of time in the nets.
  • Runs and wickets are all that count so play a lot of cricket.
  • Mental toughness innate. The weak will fall by the wayside.
  • Playing cricket is the only exercise you need.

Why change, you could argue, if these methods have worked over the years to create many fine players?

The 'Barack Obama'

The real Obama is a young, black man with a campaign policy for liberal change. He has come from the unknown and so is untested as a person and with his policies. Many will fear what may happen the inexperienced Obama becomes US President.

The cricketing version of this are the new coaching methods developed in the worlds of sport science and professional cricket coaching. The ideas are new and not as established. If they work they could make a huge difference, but will fear of failure hold them back?

  • Skill is the peak that is built on other critical elements that must be developed as well.
  • Runs and wickets are the ultimate indicator, but to get them you must take a wider view.
  • Mental toughness is a skill to be learned like any other.
  • Modern cricket demands increased strength and speed that is developed away from the field.

The Obama argument is simple. When striving to get the edge, you need to do things differently and abandon the old ways as no longer enough.

Where is your vote?

If you were voting in this cricketing election, where would you lie?

Are you an establishment person or someone looking for the edge? Maybe you think there is no real difference at all.

Leave a comment and let me know.


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Cramping your style: How to stop cramp

Are you a cramper? If you have ever cramped up on the cricket pitch you know how annoyingly distracting the pain can be from batting, bowling and fielding.

From experience I know it can put you off enough to get you out or prevent you from bowling.

Science is well aware of the issue. We know that some people are more inclined to exercise related cramps than others. But that is about as far as the facts go. The rest is theory based on incomplete information, despite reams of research.

Where does that leave the cricketing cramper?

Let's take a look at the ideas and see if we can come up with some simple steps to follow.

What is cramp?

Cramp is the pain you feel when a specific muscle unconsciously contracts. You have no control over when it happens but it always happens during or just after playing cricket (or other exercise).

While you are cramping you can barely use that muscle, if at all. Even after the cramp has gone (and sometimes they can last for several minutes) the muscle can feel sore.

Some people cramp more than others.
What causes cramp?

Traditionally, cramp has been thought to be caused by loss of salt and/or potassium through sweating. While you do lose electrolytes when you sweat, there is a debate among scientists as to whether this is enough to cause the problem.

Nobody knows for sure.

There is one other theory. It's a complex one that says the when the nervous system that controls a particular muscle gets tired it also gets confused and contracts more than it should.

This second theory explains why cramp is more common in certain muscles. Muscles that span 2 joints spend too much time contracted (for example gripping the bat). They get fatigued which kicks off the reflex of cramping.

But again, it's never been proven beyond doubt.

Preventing cramp

Nobody knows enough about cramp to give an absolute answer to preventing them. Here a few things you could try:

  • Drink water at about 500ml per hour.
  • Drink a sports drink at the same rate to replace lost electrolytes.
  • Avoid drinking too much of anything to prevent diluting your electrolyte levels.
  • Eat a banana for the potassium.
  • Stretch every day and certainly after exercise or playing.

Cramp varies from person to person. Some things work for some people and not for others. Experiment with how much you drink (don't overdo it as this can be highly dangerous) and what you eat.

How do you prevent cramp?


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The Inside Track on Cricket Shoes

You under-appreciate your feet.

Field settings: Medium pace, some movement, old ball, club wicket, long format

This article is part of "The complete guide to cricket field settings" series.

This field is effective in club matches, especially in England. It works well in a number of different conditions to a number of different types of medium pace bowlers (swing, seam, slow or fast). You can use it to both take wickets and restrict scoring in longer format games.


About PitchVision Academy

Welcome to this week's guide to playing and coaching better cricket.

I'm David Hinchliffe and I'm Director of the PitchVision Academy team. With this newsletter you are benefitting directly from over 25 Academy coaches. Our skills include international runs and wickets, first-class coaching, cutting-edge research and real-life playing experience.


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Issue: 20
Date: 2008-11-07