I’ve asked this before, and I’ll ask it again: just how important is it to have a good fielding side? Via The Corridor, Simon Briggs wrote in The Telegraph recently about how the fielding coaching manual has changed:
Richard Halsall, who works with England, keeps track of four key indicators: catches, obviously, but also clean takes, successful throws and diving stops.
These statistics have some interesting things to say. When Halsall took his job, back in 2007, England were lagging behind the world’s leading teams in both close catching and diving stops (they have since caught up.) And they say that Ian Bell, rather than the more celebrated Paul Collingwood, is England’s best all-round fielder.
They also give Halsall and his men clear targets to aim for. In Test cricket, he expects England to claim 20 wickets from 24 opportunities or fewer. In one-day internationals, meanwhile, he looks for a ratio of one direct hit from every four shies at the stumps.
Fascinating stuff. And obviously, for a team like England, with mediocre (ODI) batting and bowling, it makes sense to invest in fielding.
But for other teams, my position is this: once your players reach a certain level of fielding capability, their utility to the team starts to decrease. That is, if a player knows how to catch well, run quickly to a ball and throw it back, that’s about 90 percent of what you need. Anything above that is simply a bonus, and not worth sweating about. Ask yourself: if you had to pick between a good batsman, a good bowler, and a good fielder, which one would you drop?
Surely, the fact that India just won the World Cup — a team that contained Munaf Patel, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra — surely, that should tell you that being the best fielding side means little if you can’t back it up with the real talents. (Conversely, if you have great batsmen/bowlers, you can give away 20 runs to bad fielding.)