This is a guest article by Laurie Ward from The Complete Cricketer Academy in Cape Town, South Africa.
In a recent ODI, England lost their 100% record against minnows Bangladesh, losing by 5 runs.
During that match they “threw away” at least 4 overthrows with unnecessary shies at the stumps when batsmen had clearly made their ground.
Add in the inevitable fielding error or two and a victory can escape your grasp.
Most international teams are now in the habit of hurling the ball back to the keeper from every delivery.
- To show the opposition that the fielding team is a strong unit.
- To take the shine off the ball and to soften it more quickly.
However when these throws are misdirected boundaries are literally thrown to the opposition.
This has the dual effect of gifting runs and momentum to the batting team and undermining good work from the bowlers.
Plus, fielders have to stay switched on to cover bad throws. If the fielder is the captain he could be spending the time focusing more on strategy.
In the amateur and junior game there is less tendency to throw to the keeper every ball; one because of confidence and two to speed up over rates.
Some teams like to be seen as at the cutting edge of current trends, often with disastrous effects as the ball is seen speeding needlessly to the boundary!
There is a place for the concept of putting pressure on the batsmen but this can be done in other ways. There is also the need to get wickets with run-outs as, particularly at junior level, calling and judgment are not always good.
So what can your junior or amateur side do to look the part without throwing away runs?
- Have a policy regarding throws: Do not just turn up on a Saturday and stroll on to field without knowing roles, when and where to throw. This can be developed through effective practice done under pressure.
- Have your best fielders in the key run-saving positions: Even from an early age some fielders are more aware and street-wise than others. Add in some agility and technical skill and they become a weapon for the team to build pressure and to create and perform run-outs. They should be worked with specifically to know the correct skills and tactics of their fielding role.
- Work as a fielding unit: Even the less gifted fielders need to know their roles and look to improve their personal skills. All the ring fielders should walk in, expect every ball and react to the situation should the ball come to them or back up if not. In addition, boundary fielders should be looking to come in to cover for overthrows and cut off the extra run. If a batting team see this in action it does add to pressure and can even create a run-out situation. It takes hard work up front to create this but once it is honed in it becomes second nature and can win you matches.
- Keep the vibe going: Positive talk on the field can promote good team spirit and make the batting pair feel surrounded. If a mistake is made use this as a moment to re-enforce the team dynamic rather than get at the offender. Mistakes happen so the way a team deals with them can tell the opposition a lot about who they are up against. Avoid the trap of giving away psychological benefits to the batsmen.
- Enjoy fielding: Through quality fielding practice and skills sessions, allied to each player knowing their role/s and feeling part of a tight and aggressive fielding unit the whole team can enjoy their time in the field a lot more. You can always see the players that do not relish the job and these are the players that a batting team can target to put pressure back on the fielding team.
Drills will vary according to age and skill levels but should always have an element of pressure, a scoring system to quantify skill levels achieved and make the situation competitive.
You can work on specifics such as attacking the ball, pick-ups and balanced throwing techniques, walk-in and set, diving skills and so on.
You can work with individuals or a whole team. You can have simple or complicated drills or game-type scenarios. The key thing is to do any practice as close to match conditions as possible.
Pre-season, you can take our team away from the bats and balls and sit down to discuss fielding roles, responsibilities and your overall skills and tactics. The penny often drops at these sessions for the young fielder who gets it wrong at the match as too much else is going on.
image credit: Gary_T_W