Why you drop more catches than you should (and what to do about it) | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Why you drop more catches than you should (and what to do about it)

Does this sound familiar?

You have been practicing your catching like always before play. You stroll onto the field focused and confident that today you will catch everything that comes your way.

That is, until it does.

You snatch at the ball and watch in seemingly slow motion as the ball makes its inevitable path to the turf. The horror of that moment is unmatched on the cricket field. You have let the bowler down, the team down and yourself down all in the fraction of a second.

The myth of soft hands

"Catch with soft hands and give with the ball"

We have all heard the coaching advice. It sounds good in principle. Cushion the ball into your waiting hands and enjoy the congratulations of your team mates. But watching top players catch the ball shows a different picture.

Excellent fielders like Mark Waugh make catches look like they are having a ball lobbed to them from 5 yards, not flying off the edge at great speed, or just travelled 60 metres plus to the boundary edge.

They are not catching with soft hands, but they are catching. What's more they make it look easy.

The secret of catching under pressure

England fielding coach Richard Halsall has examined great catching in detail. He has discovered the greats catch with strong hands, not soft hands. All that giving with the ball is not only a waste of time; it reduces your chance of catching the ball.

Look at someone like Marcus Trescothick. The ball used to nestle into his hands as if they were both covered in Velcro. There was no dramatic give of the hands, just strong hands and a relaxed body.

The secret of good catching isn't being soft, it's being strong.

How to catch with strong hands

There is an important distinction between strong hands and hard hands. When you are tensed up your hands are hard and don't allow the ball in.

Strong hands close around the ball effortlessly while your arms remain relaxed and your eyes focused on the ball. You will often hear players talking about 'seeing the ball all the way in' when they pull of a great catch. It's rare to see it all the way and drop it.

So strong hands start with focused eyes and mind. Other coaching cues that can help you practice catching with string hands are:

  • Get your hands to the line of the ball, not the ball itself.
  • Get into position to catch the ball with the minimum amount of movement.
  • Allow the ball to come to you.
  • Keep the phrase "strong but relaxed" in your mind.

It's almost like you are catching in slow motion, which the best catchers tend to report as happening.

You don't need special equipment like modern international fielding coaches use: Just some mates and a ball or two.

This method takes a bit of getting used to if you have always been told to catch with soft hands, but it's worth it. If you practice this way the next time a catch flies towards you, you will be ready.

Image credit: mrowe

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Great informative article.

Recently I've taken I liking to slips, do you have any articles or advice for better reaction time for catches in the slips?

One really easy way is to overload your reactions. So, if you normally stand 15 yards back in a game, start your drills from 18 yards away then slowly get closer until you are 8-10 yards away. By the time you are that close, 15 yard catches in a game will seem like they take ages to get to you.

Thanks. Sounds logic enough, I'll try it. =D

Let me know if it makes a difference for you.

Hi David, wondering if you could help me with a problem? Mid way through last season we were at our weekly training session and just started to do some catches. I strode forward to gobble up a fairly tame one (maybe 20 metres high?, it slipped through my hands and went straight onto my nose. 30mins later I had 2 tea towels soaked in blood and a fair amount of banter from my 'mates'. Now ive never been a great fielder but I could do a pretty good job.

However, after this incident my confidence was ruined. I barely took a catch the rest of the season and am now considering taking a break from cricket and returning in a few years. As much as I hate to admit it, (and i wouldnt in public!), I think it might be a fear of catching the cricket ball because of what happened.

Have you experienced anything like this before and have you got any insights as to the psychology of taking catches and how to get me back to normal?


i think this is particularly great advice, especially as its in direct opposition to received wisdom - I tried to remember it last night in the dark on the long on boundary as a flat missile hurtled towards me at chest height at about 80mph!

When the weather is warm the ball doesn't hurt anyway as long as you catch it correctly, so trying to give with the ball is entirely unnecessary anyway.

Hi David,

I'm a cricketer based in India and i have doubts about catching. I seem to have problems with catches that are hit hard and fast, where the ball just pops out of the hand even though I 'give' with the ball and it hits the correct part of the hand. I'm not able to understand why as I have good catching technique and watch the ball all the way into my hands. Does it have something to do with strength in the forearms, wrist or is it just a case where I need to get used to it by practising harder? Any help will be appreciated.


I would love to tell you some special magic secret. The answer is as simple as this: catch more balls! Use a progressive method where you start with easier catches (either less hard or with a softer ball like an incrediball) and slowly progress to more difficult. If you catch 100 balls a day I can tell you that in 3 months you will have no troubles!