Fielding is an essential part of cricket. In fact, if one has to rank it in order of importance along with other skill sets like batting, bowling, fitness etc, fielding will not come second to any of them. It is often the ground fielding that is the deciding factor in the climax of a contest.
There are enough moments we can recollect when fielding has had the final say — remember Martin Guptill’s effort to run out MS Dhoni in the 2019 World Cup semi-final off a direct throw?
Recently, the catch Harleen Deol took during the England- India T20I series was a rage in the media and social media. Its impact was so big that no one bothered about the result of that match! Yes, it was a commendable effort. An effort that would have com after regular practice during training.
The Indian women’s team would like to motor towards many other such moments as they progress in international cricket, with the immediate aim of preparing for the ICC Women’s World Cup, which is less than eight months away. Ground fielding is still an area of concern.
For one, the average height of these players is less in comparison to other teams and two, their shorter strides add to the challenge of covering a larger ground area.
Height is something that cannot be controlled, but speed & agility can be maximised.
How much fielding coach Abhay Sharma has contributed to Deol’s effort the other day is for her to share but there are bound to be improvements in the coming months. The support staff and the paraphernalia has been steadily improving over the past few years and that is bound to reflect in the players’ efforts. This is a total transformation from our time when it was more or less up to the players to do the hard yards on their own.
In fact, with younger players getting to play for the Indian team, one needs to lay enormous emphasis on fielding at the time of identifying talent. You do not become a good or a bad fielder overnight. It is a skill that needs equal attention just like batting or bowling. And one needs to love fielding to enjoy being a good fielder, and believe me, it sets you apart.
The swiftness, the agility required to make a fast action, to initiate a run-out or reach for a catch mid-air gives you a different high. The impact just rubs off onto others and gives an extra bit of confidence in your individual game. I have rarely seen any outstanding fielder not being a good batter or bowler. The hand-eye coordination, the swiftness, the agility sharpen your other skill sets too.
At the National Stadium in Delhi, as kids we used to start our session each day by doing fielding drills. Beginning with under-arm pick up and throws and progressing to high and long-distance catches, it was an essential part of our training from the under-15 level.
Am not sure if this practice still exists in coaching centres but if it does not, it should be resumed. Basics and correct techniques are required to be instilled from a young age. Young players get identified with their batting and bowling performances but they stand apart with their fielding abilities. When you see the Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur dive forward to complete an outstanding catch, you expect youngsters like Richa Ghosh and Shafali Verma to go a shade better.
If you are a selector picking your playing 11, who would you go with — a player who scores 50 runs and leaks 10 with sloppy fielding or a player who is a plus 20 from the moment he/she walks in because of fielding abilities? Coaches need to get their players ready. A crucial catch that goes abegging can be the opening or closing to becoming a world champion.
This is the importance of fielding. It can get you thinking. And if you have an asset on the field like Ravindra Jadeja, you become a captain’s delight.