Making a quick decision to throw can be the difference between a run out and a stolen single.
But it's never quite that simple is it?
Even if you are a dead-eye when throwing at the stumps, it's possible to give away overthrows and face the wrath of your "double teapot" captain and bowler.
That's a lot of decision-making to do in a short time and indecision usually just makes matters worse. You need to be confident. Confidence improves throwing accuracy and reaction time.
Cost-benefit analysis of throwing at the stumps
As far as I know no-one has ever sat down, gone through games with run out attempts and overthrows and worked out whether the runs conceded from overthrows are balanced out by the increased chance of a run out.
I suspect, at the professional level at least, this analysis would show a simple general rule: when in doubt, throw.
My suspicion is that professionals tend to be more aware that a throw is possible and get in a position to back up more quickly and efficiently. Knowing there is definitely someone to protect your shy can give you the confidence to throw.
However, even if it does go wrong I would imagine that the odd overthrow could be easily made up for by running out a star batsman who could go on the make a hundred.
To work it out you would need to get your team's scorer to record overthrows as well as actual run outs. Then you can work out how many overthrows per run out you concede.
You can make it more complex by also working out the value of the run out, but that maths is far beyond my limited statistical skills.
I'm willing to bet either way, that the throw comes out the winner.
Returns to the keeper
Run out chances are one thing, but there has been a recent trend for players to throw back to the keeper, even if the batsmen are not attempting a run. The theory goes that this shows the batsman he or she is under pressure from the fielding team.
I don't believe that's right.
Even if the batsman does feel this way, they soon become immune to its effects as it happens after almost every ball. Also, at club level at least, the chance of a poorly aimed throw is increased when the benefit of getting a run out is non-existent.
There is some benefit in doing it as a fielder to find your range with throws early in the match. It also keeps the wicketkeeper's gloves warm. I still don't think that is enough to make the ball come back to the keeper every time. On balance I prefer teams not to do it.
Whatever your policy on throws (and every team should have one), it's vital to practice all the different throws. It should be the rare practice session or warm up that doesn't include some or all of the following:
- Underarm at the stumps
- Overarm returns to the keeper (including low returns when throwing with the sun behind you)
- Overarm at the stumps
There are a number of drills to do this as part of Derek Randall's fielding drills course on PitchVision Academy.
It's also important to watch how much you throw. For club players playing a couple of times a week this is not usually a problem, but if you play a lot of cricket you will need to be careful how much you throw in practice, keeping it limited but still working on something.
All players ideally would include some warm up drills to help prevent throwing injuries. This just means warming up the shoulder muscles with 'activation' work like:
These movements don't require equipment or more than a few minutes of your warm up. They an be done every day if needed and will help protect you from injury.
The take home point
Injury prevention aside, my feeling is that most teams would benefit from the confidence of fielders who are happy to throw the ball. However not many teams should adopt the modern practice of throwing to the keeper every time.
What are your thoughts?