Assessing The Importance Of Good Fielding

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.)

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8 thoughts on “Assessing The Importance Of Good Fielding

  1. Golandaaz says:

    Good fielding can be the difference maker between 2 evenly matched teams in batting and bowling which I think is the point of your post. So I agree….

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Actually, my larger point is that good fielding isn’t all that useful. If you want to train a team — and have limited time and resources to do so — I would focus all my energies on making batsmen better (including tailenders), and making bowlers better.

      I would train them in fielding for the basics I outlined above. Diving, hitting the stumps — that’s all a bonus, but not something you should plan for, or necessarily invest in.

  2. duckingbeamers says:

    For a mediocre side, yes, it makes sense. But for sides like India, I’m not so sure. If you have good batsmen and good fielders, you can scrimp on fielding.

    • Angy says:

      I think it carries over as long as you have a distinct advantage, or by extension, that it’s a worthwhile trade-off if you can gain batting or bowling supremacy at the expense of fielding. When the batting and bowling don’t have that outright dominance, the fielding is often a deciding factor.

      I mean India didn’t suddenly get talent, they’ve more or less had the equal or outright best ODI batting order throughout the last 20 years. They haven’t been anywhere near as successful as that would imply.

      You might say one World Cup is proof enough, but I suspect the other five reveal that it does leave something to be desired.

      • duckingbeamers says:

        Thanks for the comment, Angy. I’m still not convinced — India didn’t have this batting line-up in the ’90s, when the name of the game was, essentially, Tendulkar.

        What the previous five World Cups reveal, in my opinion, is that Australia once had batting and bowling talents that dominated other teams. Once these talents were largely removed — Warne, McGrath, Hayden, etc. — the team failed. I’d say their fielding was constant through this period.

        My point isn’t to say fielding is completely irrelevant. No, it’s more limited: first, stop overestimating its importance, and second, do not think a bad fielding team automatically faces an uphill battle. That’s only the case if the batting/bowling sucks.

  3. Definitely this really important for a team, most of the we have seen when a batsman couldnt make the score, usually he is been struggled. So it is obviously important.

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