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CRICKET., Issue 10426, 22 September 1897
HOW TO FIELD. Cricketers, especially colts, should make a point of reading and pondering Prince Ranjitsinhji's artlc'e in the number of the ' Windsor Magazine.' We make these extracts: — " The impottance of good fielding is very easy to demonstrate. E.ieh catch that is missed simply adds another batsman to the opposing side. If five catches are dropped the side that drops them has to all intents and purposes fifteen men to dispose of instead of ten ; and each man who thus receives a second innings starts with the advantage of having more or lcs3 got used to the light and the state of the wicket. Again, let us suppose that each man on a side gives away in each innings three rum which he might have saved by a little more d ish and keenness. Not only has the opposite side 33 more runs added to its Bcore without the trouble of making them by their own efforts, but the side which gave the runs away has 33 more runs to get than they need have had, and consecjuently has given itself so much greater chance of meeting with bad luck. A run saved is more than a run gained ; it is a run that need not be got. Runs vary in value. It, is infinitely more than three times harder for a side to get 150 runs than it is to get 50. It is infinitely easier for an individual to save 20 runs ly good fielding than it is for him to make 20 by good bat'ing. In a particular match the best batsman in the world may twice fdil to score. Suppose he is a bad fielder, aad gives away, as he well might if fielding in the country, 25 runs in each inning 3. Not only has he made no tuns himself, but has burdened the rest of his side with the necessity of making 50 runs more than they otherwise would have required. He has practically deducted 50 ruus from the score of his side. Let us imagine that but for his bad fielding there would have been only 100 1 una to get to win. As it is, there are 150. Clearly, a3 far as concerns him, 50 runs must be scored before one is counted. In a way, the strength of a fielding side must be measured by its weakest member, as that of a chaia by its weakest link. Whenever there is a really bad fielder on a side, more balls seem to go to him than to anyone else. Put him where you will, he seems to attract the ball. If there is a catch to be caught that would win the match, it seems always to seek the hands of tin weaker brother. If he misses it the efforts of the side are all spoilt and rendered futile. Mistakes cannot always be avoided, but with proper measures taken their frequency may be astonishingly diminished.
'Gtrd fielding is as helpful as bad fielding is noxious. To a certain extent it turns bad bowling into good. Backed by Btrong ground fielding and sure catching, quite moderate bowling cin as a, rule b3 relied on to dispose of any side for a not unreasonablylarge score. Besides, bowlers who cm trust their fielders to hold catches bowl with more confidence and keenness. Nothing demoralises a bowler more than to see run after run that might have been saved scored iff his deliveries. As for missed catches, it is weary work for a bowler to besiege a batsman's weak stroke for half an hour, to succeed in getting him into a carefully planned trap, to see a catch—such a baby one—muffed ridiculously, and to have all his trouble over again. Besides, once bitten twice shy. The bowler has shown his hand, and the batsman is now on the look out. Many a bowler has tempted Abel to try, before well set, hi 3 placiuo stroke through the slips; has seen slip fail to hold an easy catch, and has had to bowl and field for the Surrey giant's benefit a whole day—perhaps two. It is too much to expect every catch to be caught, but without doubt; if more trouble were taken over fielding, far fewer would be missed.
'Even from a spectator's point of view, it is a pity tint skill in fielding is not developed to the highest degree of which it is capable. There is no finer sight in cricket than that of a really good fielding side trying ita level best to win or save a match. It is marvellous what can be done, and is clone in such circumstances. Even the uninitiated cm appreciate a magnificent catch or a dashing save on the boundary. And the impression given by the splendid unitv of the eleven m n, by their individual and"collective energy all concentrated on one end, can arouse intense enthusiasm in a crowd of onlooker as the best batting imaginable. " It is surprising that the famous nurseries of amateur cricketers, the great English public schools, with all their advantages, do not produce fielders of more than average ability. Even the universities do not devote proper attention to fielding. Proficiency in this respect is often wofully absent in the case of those men who are otherwise excellent cricketers. However, anyone, boy or man, with a genuine interest in cricket, decent health, and ordinary natural qualifications of eye and hand, can, if he likes, become a very useful field. By this I mean that although he possibly may not acquire nrst-class form he may nevertheless become quite good enough for all ordinary purnoses. Moderate success at fielding is almost within every cricketer's, grasp. This opinion is contrary to that of many authorities on the game, but it seems to me that it istourd. Latching, picking up, and throwing are quite natural actions apart from the requirements of cricket It is difficult to believe that anyone who really tries to learn how to bed can fail to become at any rate ' a safe Held. _ I he term signifies that the fielder when in his usual form may be relied upon to stop hits that come within reasonable distance of him, and to hold practically all catches—in a word, not to disgrace himself in any way. _ It implies also a certain degree of slowness, inasmuch as the fieldsman is posed to be wan ting in tl at dash and brilliancy which renders possible feats which until performed seemed absolutely impossible, lhe safe fieldsman does what can reasonably be expected of a fielder, and no more—not because he do;s not care to exceed that limitation, but because he cannot. Such safe' fields caD, however, be made of con-
siderable use to a side, if they assiduously practice catching, picking up, and throwing, and, above all, during actual matches remain always on the alert. In fielding, just as much as in other parts of the game, great success is the result of experience and practice, in. additiou to the various gifts of Nature. Brilliant fieldsmen are born, not made, and this in the same sense as are brilliant, bat3mcn and bowlera. It is a case of a great capacity, highly cultivated. Suppleness of limb, speed of foot, and quickness of eye arc trained on special lines to suit the particular end in view. The same qualities and much the same applications of thern are requisite in all games of handball. The various actions required are primitive aud almost instinctive ; so there is little room and no need for any elaborate theorising on the subject.
"The whole art cf fielding consists of three parts—ground fielding, throwing, and catching. It i 3 necessary to be able, with the utmost possible certainty and rapidity, to gather in the hands a ball"hit along or on to the ground, aud to return it equally surely aud swiftly to either wicket, in order that as few runs as possible be scored and the batsman bs run out 3hould a chance occur. Shculd the ball be hit into the air without touching the ground every imaginable attempt should be made to bring it to the hand, and keep it there, in order that the batsman may be dismissed by being caught out. Every man iu the field without exception should be able to carry out these requirements. The methods of picking up, throwing, and catching differ slightly accDrdiog to the position of the fielder aud the way the ball is hit towards him. But the main outlines are the same in every case. Aud perhaps it will be best for the sake of clearness to suppose complete ignorance on the part cf the reader.
" Let us consider the case of ground fielding first. Strictly speaking, the term applies to the gathering up of a ball so hit that it rolls along the ground till the fieldsman intercepts its course. But it is also used to denote the fielding of any ball not a catch. The action of fielding the ball, whether bounding or on the ground, is much the same, except that the hands in the former case do not touch the ground when the ball is received into them. The way a ball should be fielded depends entirely on hew it comes. It would be impossible to give instructions to suit every minute contingency, but perhaps a few broad hints mav be of some use. Suppose the fielder be at "long-on or long-oft' and a ball is hit straight towards him. There are three things to be done : First, to stop it; Eecond, to pick it up ; and third, to throw it in to the wicket-keeper or bowler. The first point saves a boundary, the second and third should prevent more than one run being scored off the stroke. With regard to stopping the ball clean and true so that it remains enclosed in the hands. To begin with, the point should be studied and practically independently of anything else. The fielder is advised te face the ball square, with closed feet, and to pick it up with both his hands. Nearer the wicket the ball naturally travels with more pace. But mid-on aud mid-off and all other fielders should gather a3 described above a ball hit straight or nearly straight at them. Mark well that two hand?, whenever possible, should be used to receive the ball. The hands should not be held stiff, but in such a way that they give with the impact of the ball, and thus lessen the resistance. After having made sure of being able to pick the ball up properly in this manner, the fielder should practice throwing the ball into' the wicket with the "least possible waste of time. Any time that is lost between the receipt of the ball and the return of it to the wicket is so much in favor of the batsman. The number of runs that can be saved or given away during two long innings by a fieldsman in the country, or indeed anywhere, is astonishiDg. Everyone agrees on this point, but few act on it. It would do no one any harm to writ-3 up a memorandum of the fact above their beds.
"N T ow,thequ ; c'iest ; and therefore the best, way to return a, ball after picking it up is different in various persons. Some throw above, some below the shoulder, and 1.0 two have quite the same action in throwing. But all who excel in this point have two characteristics in common—they pick up the ball in such a way that the action of picking up seems to 1)3 part of the sub3<?quentae! ion of throwing, and they throw the ball without any winding up or preliminary hesitation. A wicket-keeper was once remonstrating witii a fielder for not having run a man out. ' Why, I threw it in like a book,' retorted the latter. ' Yea, you did,' was the reply, ' but the preface and introduction were too long.' Really smart throwers are very uncommon. If fielders took these two facts to mind, and acted accordingly, runs would be harder to get than ever. It requires an immense amount of practice to get the knack of a quick return ; and it must not be forgotten that quickness is of no use without accuracy. The most important point after al! is to throw in such a manner that the man at the wicket can take the ball easily and near the stumps. The three things to avoid, apart from errors of direction, are sending in the ball so that it must ba taken in as a yorker, or a half volley, or what one mav call a good length ball—that is, good leng'th in that it is difficult for the recipient; to see and judge it. A return should come to the man at the wicket either on the long hop or full pitch, and that about a foot above the bails. Fielders near the wicket—in fact, unless they are in thelongcountry—should return theball full pitch. Long fielders should aim at making the ball arrive first bounce and long hr>p at its destination. Withregardtothrowinz in from the country, the gieat fault fielders make is to throw the ball too high in the air. Clearly the lower its trajectory the sooner will the ball reach the wicket. There is an exact height at which the ball should travel in order to combine rapidity in flight with accuracy in length. One reason why the throw-in requires so much practice is that unless the muscles rsed be dulled to the point of mechanical accuracy—that is, till they almost act of themselver—the thrower has to stop to think what he is going to do, and thus loses time. A really good returner does not waste time in thinking what he is going to do or which wicket he had better aim at. All that is done while the ball is coming to him. His action in picking it up and throwing it in conforms with what he has already judged to be the best and quickest way of returning it, Sometimes the stroke and the return are so quick that a spectator has scarcely time to perceive what has happened.
" HaviDg learnt to stop the ball,clean and return it quickly and aceuratelv, a fieldsman should learn to dash in and meet the ball, so that the time it would have taken to reseh him if he stayed where he was is knocked off. The slower the ball is travelling the more necessary it is to run in to meet it. A fielder should be continually on his toes, ready to Btart forwards, or indeed in any direction. After a certain amount of practice a fielder, when ou the move, can be as accurate in his picking up as if standing still. The actual method of gathering the ball is the same as when the fielder stands where he is and waits for the ball. 1 ' There are many ways of practisingfielding. Even two men can manage to do a good deal together if they take it in turn to hit and to field. It is an excellent arrangement for a number of men and boys to scatter in a rough semi-circle while another is hitting catches and ground balls to them. And it is ex client exercise for the hitter. But apart from matches, scratch games afford the best fielding practice, because the fieldsmen have the ball hit to them in their various positions just as it is in real matcher, and they cm also practise returning the ball to the wicket. School elevens should take the trouble to drill iu this way with some competei t adviser looking on and coaching them. All sc'iools, whatever their batting and bowling are like, should field almost as well as a first - class team. Certainly this is true of the larger schools. Much improvement can be brought about in an individual boy's fielding if he is taken separately, fed with various kinds of catches and ground balls, and told each time whether he has fielded the ball properly or not. Boys—and, I am afraid, men too—are in the habit of missing in matches catches they would hold with perfect ease in practice. This is no doubt due to nervousness. Here, again, nothing but practice can do much good. Nervousness often disappears as experience grows. After all, courage and
nerve are largely matters of habit. A-sailor would fear to tackle a herd of unruly cattle just as much as a stockman would fear to run up a high rigging, but both maybe brave and steady enough in circumstances to which they are accustomed. So with cricket. A high steeple catch in the country begins to lose its terrors when one has caught a doz;n such the evening bsfore at fielding practice. ( To be conc'u led.)
CRICKET., Issue 10426, 22 September 1897
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