Watching the ball or watching the bat?

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by Kevin Keys

Watching the ball or watching the bat?

Who should watch the ball or who the bat is often a matter for discussion among coaches and players. As a general rule you will be safe to remember the following guidelines –
 

Watch the bat if fielding:

  • in the Slips, with the exception of First Slip.
  • at Point.
  • at Silly Mid-off and Silly Mid-on.
  • at Short Leg, Leg Slip or Short Fine-leg.

 

Watch the ball if fielding:

  • at First Slip.
  • at Gully.
  • at Wicket-keeper.
  • at Backward Point.

 

Watch the bowler, then the ball, then the bat if fielding:

  • at Third Man.
  • at Cover-point.
  • at Extra Cover.
  • at Mid-off.
  • at Mid-on.
  • at Mid-wicket.
  • at Square-leg.
  • at Fine-leg.

 

Infielding and outfielding

To give away unnecessary singles is an insult to you and to be avoided at all costs. You must make sure such mistakes are not repeated by making this goal a personal challenge if you are fielding in the infield. In the outfield you can seldom restrict singles but you can make sure they do not become twos or threes or even worse, boundaries.
Walk in as the bowler runs in to bowl. This helps with anticipation and makes sure your feet are moving and not planted in a stationary position. Stay light, on the balls of your feet with your weight forward in a slight crouch, ready to move quickly towards the ball. With time, you will learn to anticipate the batter’s stroke, by noting the “shape of the shot”, the batter’s footwork and his arm movements.
Run as quickly as possible to the ball by estimating an intercept point and then travelling in a straight line to that point. Be prepared to get your body in the way of the ball, to do anything to cut off runs. One of the most frustrating things for your team-mates to observe is the ball going underneath the body of a fieldsman on its way to the boundary.
Always listen for guidance from your team-mates when intercepting or chasing after the ball. You may hear “bowler” or “keeper”, alerting you to the fact that a batter is in trouble and you should throw to that particular end.
When fielding on the boundary do not move too far in from the boundary line before the ball is struck, as this will cut down the length of boundary you can protect. Also, if a catch is lofted in your direction, you will not want to have to turn and take the ball over your shoulder.

 

Good infielding is very much a team affair. Three or four high quality infielders all working together as a team will often pressure a frustrated batter into a fatal error of judgment.

 

Close catching

Slips specialists are vital to a team’s success. This is especially so in junior grades of cricket where good slip fielders are a rarity. Good slip fielders are second only to the wicket-keeper in their importance to the team fielding effort.

A key to being successful as a slip fielder is to believe that every ball is coming to you. Because of the high levels of concentration required, slip fielding can be mentally exhausting, so you need to learn how to relax between deliveries.

Close catching is a difficult skill and there is seldom an easy catch in close. Having a break from the slips through a run in the outfield can be beneficial and restore concentration levels when the player returns to his normal position.