Fielding is the only part of the game where all eleven players are in the game together. If you think about it, the majority of your time is spent on the field. This is why it is so important to get this aspect of the game right.
If you look at the great bowling attacks of past generations, they were all backed up by a good fielding team, especially the behind the wicket fielders where many dismissals come from. If you go back into the archives of the games where the likes of McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and Lee or Kasprowicz played together, you would see a pretty awesome fielding team supporting these bowlers. They would never have taken as many wickets without good fielders and a good wicket keeper. Yes, they were great bowlers, but the chances that they created were taken. The edges were caught and there was always pressure on in the in-field. The batsmen were not only trying to survive, but when a scoring opportunity presented itself, there were some outstanding fielders around looking for run outs and saving runs.
There are many things to consider when it comes to training for fielding, but it can be broken down into three basic elements: Catching, throwing and ground fielding.
The Power Position and Split Step
When fielding in the slips, gully or catching in close we need to start with our head really still, feet a bit wider than shoulder width apart giving us a stable base with our hands out in front. It is also key that we stay low. Once we move out of the “catching positions” and we are a bit further away from the bat we have a whole lot more ground to cover. This is where we can use a “split step” or hop. Forget about walking in with the bowler. This is just a myth, but we can’t just stand still either. We need to get rid of what I call “dead weight ” by using this split step. Some players like to take a step or two forward into the split step so practice it to find out what works best for you. Having a split step gives us the ability apply maximum force to the ground, which helps us move as quickly as possible in all directions. Strength as well as speed and agility training is important in that it will help you to move quicker and be more balanced when catching or pickin up a ball to throw it.
We need to get the basics right first before we move forward. Just like batting, the most important thing to do is WATCH the ball. We can’t catch what we can’t see! Trying watching the seam of the ball all the way in to your hands.
Next, there are two styles of catching. The first is what I call “regular” or “fingers down”, and the other is the “reverse cup”. The style of catch you use comes down to personal preference. Usually the “fingers down” will be used for catches that come below your chest. Ricky Ponting uses the “reverse cup” a lot, but this sometimes gets him into trouble. Look at some of the dropped catches from him in recent times – they are almost all from trying to catch a dipping ball this way, or misjudging the height of the catch and still going “reverse cup”.
If the ball is travelling higher up, the “reverse cup” is generally used. When you catch this way, you usually catch just in front of your body, so it is important that you get your hands where you can see them. When the ball is hit high into the air, I would almost never use the “reverse cup” and always go with the regular catch. Again, it comes down to personal preference, but my view on this is that too many things can go wrong with the “reverse cup” when catching a high ball. If the wind is blowing or you slightly misjudge the catch, its all over. The other benefit of catching the high ball regular style is that you can catch the ball a little closer to eye-level. If you misjudge the catch and the ball bounces out off your chest or you fumble it, it makes for an easier re-gather.
Around the world
Half volleys off the bat
Opposite hand across catch
Opposite hand across catch in Resistance band (underarm)
Opposite hand across catch in Resistance band (off the face of the bat)
Tennis ball + tennis racquet
Tennis ball with tape (swing ball) + tennis racquet
Tennis ball rapid fire
Katchit + throw
Katchit + bat
Tennis Catch (ball with seam- half volleys)
Rebound net with a thrower behind + flick into the stump for short leg, leg gully, leg slip practice
Game Specific Drills
3 Man Drill – Use if you have 5 people
3 man off-side field – mid off, catching cover and a point
3 man on-side field – mid-on, catching mid-wicket and square leg
For these drills you need a batter and a thrower. The thrower can use a simple underarm throw and throw a half volley or full toss to the batter, who then hits a ground ball or catch to the fielders. Using a pitch, wicket block or synthetic surface on an oval would be ideal. Here you would get a batter to pad up and have the thrower use an over arm throw to throw both full and short balls to make the drill as realistic as possible.
Make sure you change the fielding positions so you are catching and throwing from different angles. For example, have the cover fielder move back to a regular cover. Do the same with mid wicket. You could also send that fielder out on the ring or into the deep to practice an outfield catch/throw. By doing this, the fielders in the ring get to practice trying to save a single when the ball is hit into the gap.
A good idea would be to move the whole field both squarer and finer, as this happens all the time in the game and we want to practice our catching and throwing from various angles.
One Day Game Drill
This is similar to the 3-man drill, except you have a full field, including a wicket keeper. Throws must go to either the wicket keeper or bowler’s end. If the ball goes out on the off-side, someone needs to get to the stumps at the bowlers end and everyone on the on-side needs to be positioning themselves to back up one of the ends. Remember, EVERYONE is in the game. You not only need to back up the throw, but you also need to back up the deflection or ricochet off the stumps. We are going to hit the stumps right?!
Slip Catching Drill
Here you need a wicket keeper, some slips and a gully if you have enough fielders. Again, don’t just practice with the regular three slips and a gully. Have two slips and two gullies. Practice with a fly slip or 45 on the ring. These things happen in both the longer and shorter forms of the game, so it’s important to practice these situations.
It is important that you have a good knicker and probably not your tale end batter. Unless you tell them to try and hit the ball in the middle of the bat, they will probably miss everything. A good thrower is just as important. Hard, accurate throws are needed to replicate what’s going to happen out in the middle. There is no point in doing these drills at half pace, as this does nothing for us. You could start off this drill with a hard, flat underarm throw, with the keeper and slip cordon standing closer in before moving back.
It is also important that we practice slips catching for the spinners as well. There are times where a leg slip is also required so working on that is important too.
Throwing can be broken up into underarm and overarm throws. The underarm throw can be further broken down into a regulation throw and a flick. For the regulation underarm it’s important that we keep our arm straight, while trying not to take a big wind-up. It is also important that we try to get into a position where our feet are facing the target. This gives us a more accurate throw. If you keep throwing it over the stumps or person at the stump, it generally means you are bending your arm too much. The flick should be practiced once the regular one is perfected. The flick throw will be used when there is not have enough time to get front-on to the target, where you need a sidearm or reverse flick to get the ball to the target.
Before going into any drills, it is vital to warm up properly. The most obvious thing to do before throwing is to warm up the shoulders, but it is equally important to warm up our whole body, as we use more than just the shoulder when we throw.
Shoulder Warm Up
Shoulder Strength Training and Rehabilitation
Over the past few years I have been following some of the top baseball pitching and throwing experts to try and learn more about the mechanics of the throw to try and develop a more powerful and efficient throw from both the infield and outfield. At this stage, I won’t go into too much detail about the mechanics of the over-arm and side-arm throws, but I would just like to cover the basics before we go into a few drills.
First, it is important that when we pick up the ball, we try to grip the ball across the seam. Obviously we don’t want to spend too much time trying to set the ball in our hands before throwing, as we are trying to release the ball as quickly as we can. Now that we have picked up the ball, we should have already decided which end we are throwing to. It is important to stay low and not waste too much time standing up to throw. We then need to set and replace our feet so that our back foot is side-on to the target. The aim is to get our body into a side on position (skateboard style) with our lead shoulder facing the target. It is important that we keep our momentum going straight through to the target with a good follow through.
Wrist behind the ball flick
Throwing off one knee
Step and throw
Shuffle, throw and follow through
Rear foot elevated throws
Ground Fielding Drills (In field and outfield)
Pick up and throw at stumps working angles
Two handed pick up and throw
One handed pick up if you have limited time or running laterally to fetch a ball.
Swivel and throw
Check back here for Video demonstrations of these drills