I want you to look at a couple of pictures.
The first is Dennis Lillee in his pomp. 9 slip fielders in a range of 'ready positions'. Some are crouched low and others more upright, ready for the edge.
The second is 4 slip fielders all in similar ready positions: Lots of knee flexion and hands low in a keeper-like position.
I would be bold enough to suggest that the more contemporary image demonstrates a group of players who have been influenced by external forces (coaching, sports science, TV). Effectively, each member of that cordon is trying to get in the same position and adopt the same posture.
The 1970's image depicts slip fielders taking up the positions that each individual feels is best for them to complete the job.
So, which one is best?
As coaches, we are very good at putting technique into boxes. "This is the best batting stance", "lean into the shot with your head", "everyone should walk in", "keep your weight on your toes when fielding at cover", "all great fast bowlers have a long delivery stride".
Yet, I would say this is more convenient than correct.
I bet you are now challenging each one of my statements above (quite rightly) and picturing players who have been great and not done the things I have written.
So why should all slip fielders get down low, creating significant flexion in their legs and have their hands low as in the 4 man slip cordon image?
I would speculate that at least 2 of the players in the modern image move most effectively by not bending his legs significantly (concentric energy)
I know that the concentric position is perfect for Mike Hussey. Compare it to his batting stance which is also wide and has significant leg flexion. Yet I would challenge or test the other 3 slips to experiment with a more upright posture, less leg flexion and slightly narrower stance.
So my challenge to both players and coaches this weekend is to experiment with slip fielding ready positions in practice your practices and warm ups. Try both of the following methods:
- Wide, Knees flexed, hands low, chin up. Think Graeme Smith, Kevin Pietersen or Alistair Cook. Move to the ball by pushing off from the ground with the feet and legs. Catch a few, move right, left, up and down and notice how that feels and looks.
- Narrower, less flexion in the legs, head forward, chin down. Think Mark Waugh, Paul Collingwood or Andrew Strauss. Move your head to the ball and the rest of the body will follow.
See which one feels better, ask someone to video each ready position on their phone and compare.
One will be you preferred method as it will fit with your natural way of moving.
Once you have established that, practice so hard that you master it.