This is part of the specialist fielding series of articles, for the full list of fielding positions covered click here
The mid on and mid off are the least glamorous pair of the inner fielding ring. You rarely see great fielders there and often find lesser talents trying to hide.
So can you really be a specialist mid off or mid on?
Absolutely. The positions require a certain set of skills, and there are times when spectacular work is needed, especially at the end of a limited over match when you are on the boundary and need to dive to stop a four, or leap to catch that ball going for six.
Why have a mid on and mid off?
Placed to stop the straighter drives, these positions are in the first to go in and it’s rare to see a field without some kind of mid on and mid off. That’s because batsmen want to play straight and the ball is very likely to go there:
The job requires you to stop the straighter drives and catch the mishit ones. You’ll also be doing a lot of chasing, either after the ball as it gets past you or along the boundary before it goes for four.
Plus, you will need a dead eye throw at the stumps as players attempt to take singles to you.
How to field at mid on and mid off
Your job is to stop drives with quick singles less important (that’s what the covers and midwicket are for), so you will be a little further back than other ring fielders. Somewhere between 16-26m from the batsman.
Keep your eye on where you are in relation to cover/extra cover or midwicket. If you come too close you open a gap in the covers as they try and compensate. Make sure you command the line by avoiding creeping in.
To walk in or not?
The classic coaching advice we are all taught is to walk in as the bowler runs up. Recent theories have both backed and discouraged the method. So what is right?
For me the key is to be alert, focused and balanced on the balls of both feet as the ball is delivered. This can be done by steaming in like Jonty Rhodes used to do, or keeping relatively still and getting into the ready position as the ball is bowled.
If you are walking in casually then you take the risk of being on one leg, stepping forward as the ball is coming to you. This is a very unbalanced position, so make sure you are stable and you can choose how much to walk in.
Where to stand
There are a couple of things to take into account when thinking where to stand.
- Pace of the bowling. In general you will be closer to the bat when the spinner is on, and further back when the quicker men are on.
- Tactics. The further back you are the more you are there to stop boundaries and the less to save runs. Most of the time you will be in a ‘one saving’ position or right on the boundary, but might be moved in certain situations. The key is to know what the plan is and then you won’t drift too far.
- Where the ball is going. Batsman and bowlers have different styles. This means the ball goes to different places. Want an example: You may be wider at mid off for an outswing bowler to a batsman who plays with an open face compared to normal.
How to practice
Like other ring fielders, you need to be fit, fast, athletic and technically sound, especially with catching.
Once you are working towards these aspects of your game you can bring in drills to help hone your techniques under pressure.
AN especially realistic drill is this one: 360 degree fielding.
Other good drills for this position are:
You can also incorporate skills into wider team games like these: