If you are a batsmen or a bowler, everyone is expected to contribute in the field in modern day cricket. Your arm must be strong and accurate, but most importantly, you must be able to catch. Catches win matches as the old saying goes, and dropping a simple chance can be a terrible feeling during the game. Like anything in the game of cricket the proper technique is crucial, as well as plenty of practice. Be that on your own, or during match day situations.
Different fielding positions require different skills, starting positions and techniques. For example, if the ball gets lofted high in the air and you are taking the ball at long off, then you have to watch it for a long time and then take it comfortably. In contrast, if you are in close at slip or short leg, then you have to be constantly ready and have lightning fast reactions. First Rate Sports is here to continue its ever popular sporting tips series with some great tips on how to catch a cricket ball.
Fielding in the slips
We will start off with close in catching, specifically in the slips. Your starting position is crucial, as this will determine how quickly you will be able to move in one direction or another. You should have your feet about slightly more than shoulder width apart, and should be light on your feet as if slightly bouncing on the ball of your feet. However, it is crucial to keep your head still. As the bowler comes into bowl, flex at your knees, squatting into a lower position and bend your back. Your hands should be cupped and resting just beneath your knees. This will help with any catches you have to move forwards for, or that start to die on you after taking the edge. The last universal thing is that you catch with soft hands. You need to make sure your fingers are relaxed and your wrists are flexible and ready to accept the ball into them, almost as if cushioning them. If your hands are too rigid the ball can pop out, or hit your fingers first as you are too slow to react. Too loose and soft and the ball will blast through them. Practice on achieving the balance.
Next you need to know when to swap your hand position. It is no good having a cup with our fingers pointing down if the ball is flying high. You only have seconds to react so practice for this is key. If the ball is tracking between your feet up to the bottom of your rib cage, then keep your hands in the cupped position you started in and move your arms towards the ball accordingly. Make sure you get your weight behind the ball if possible, although this can be tough with the ball moving so quickly.
If the ball flies above your stomach at your chest or even head level and higher it is impossible to catch with that same hand shape. You want to switch as soon as you see the ball flying high. Use pushing off from the ground with your feet as a trigger movement to get your hands in a cup position. However this time, with your finger pointing upwards. You are essentially reversing your hand position. Make sure your fingers are pointing up, and are only slightly curved. Use the spring in your legs, that is achieved from the good starting position you adopted, to rise quickly from your crouched position.
This is why starting position, balance and awareness are so crucial in the slips. You need to be able to move back or forth or to either side at a moments notice. This again is why it is so crucial to feel light on your feet, and able to shift your body weight whenever it is required.
Catching high balls in the outfield
If you are in the outfield, getting under a high ball, it is very likely you will have a lot more time to react as you can see the ball coming. Watching the ball is crucial with all catching, but never more so than with a high ball. You need to first pick up the flight and position yourself underneath it. Anticipation like this takes practice, and high catching drills can be crucial in achieving this experience.
Once you are comfortable that you have watched the flight and know it is coming to your hands, take a stance with legs slightly bent, although not as low as slip fielding. Again you want to have a stance slightly wider than shoulder width. Next you need to ready your hands. Have them together, with the fingers pointed upwards and having your thumbs next to each other. This should be a starting position even if the ball hasn’t come your way in a while. Always be prepared for the ball to come to you. You can not catch anything if your hands are in your pockets or down by your side, expect maybe some filthy looks from your teammates. Your arms should also be in front of your body at all times as the bowler runs into his delivery stride.
As the ball falls from the sky watch the ball all the way into your hands, making any slight adjustments you might need as the flight of the ball deviates in the air until it lands in the softest part of your palm. Wrap your fingers around the ball as it enters the pouch you’ve made with your hands, and absorb the impact by relaxing your shoulders, and flexing your knees. Do not try and keep your arms rigid as the ball enters as this will only cause the ball to bounce out.
Any extra tips?
Make sure you know the rules of catching. Never claim a catch if you know it has bounced before getting to you, or if you know it’s popped out of your hands after.
Make sure you are always prepared and ready for the ball to come to you. Never switch off as this can be when drops happen. Always get into a good starting position and be prepared to move as required, be it in the slips or the outfield.
Know your catching zone and communicate. Do not dive for catches comfortably flying to second slip if you are at first or third. They are harder for you to take and can put off somebody from a much simpler catch. This is the same in the outfield. Do not go tearing after a ball you know is flying to long off if you are at long on. Observe the field setting and know who will be in the best position to take a catch. If you are unsure, and the ball is flying between you and another fielder, call load and clearly that the ball is yours. This will stop another fielder colliding with you. Also, be sure to listen out for other fielders making the same call.
Finally, encourage your fellow fielders. Praise catches and encourage people low on confidence. We all drop catches, it happens during a game but do not be too harsh. After that initial shock of a drop, build your fellow fielders back up again as he may need confidence moments later to take another catch.