Practice Makes Perfect With The Art Of Slip Fielding

Ben Stokes has almost perfected the art of slip fielding and he is one of the best catchers in the world along with AB De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis

Catches win Matches

Cricket can be the loneliest and most unforgiving of sports. The fundamental duel between batsman and bowler determines the outcome of the contest. However the famous words of former Australian captain Alan Border always ring true: “Catches win matches”. Slip fielding, therefore, is crucial.

The England slip fielders were guilty of dropping two chances on the first morning of the second test v Pakistan. Rory Burns and Dom Sibley being the guilty parties. If England are intent on reclaiming the Ashes next winter they cannot afford such generosity.

Watch – Ben Stokes’ superhuman catch at the 2019 Cricket World Cup

Mark Waugh and Rahul Dravid – Slip Fielding Geniuses

Mark Waugh and Rahul Dravid were slip fielding geniuses
Dominic Cork of England is caught for 2 runs by Shane Warne of Australia off the bowling of Glenn McGrath during the 2nd Test match between England and Australia at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London, 22nd July 2001. The other fielders for Australia are Mark Waugh and wicketkeeper Adam GIlchrist; the non-striking batsman for England is Craig White and the umpire is Steve Bucknor. Australia won the match by 8 wickets. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

Slip catching is an underrated skill in cricket. One of the all time great slip fielders, Mark Waugh, often spoke of the importance of letting the ball come to the hands, as opposed to grabbing at the ball. In other words soft hands are better than hard hands.

Often it can be a sign of a lack of confidence when chances are dropped. Over eager slip fielders can go hard at the ball, anxious to force the catch. The result? The ball being pushed away rather than nestling into the comfortable embrace of the fielder.

Also, Read – The debate between Jos Buttler and Ben Foakes

Another all time great slip was the eminent Indian batsman Rahul Dravid. Dravid holds the record for all time catches in test matches by a non wicket keeper, 210. He credits his catching prowess to the coaching of Australia legend Bobby Simpson who merely fine tuned his stance and advocated practice, practice and some more practice.

Unlike batting and bowling, which require a certain degree of natural talent, fielding is an aspect of the game which can be largely mastered by good old fashioned practice.

The Unfortunate James Tredwell

English bowler James Tredwell (R) celebrates with Gary Ballance who took the catch off Treadwell’s bowling for the wicket of Devon Smith for 65 on day five of the first cricket Test match between West Indies and England at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in St John’s, Antigua on April 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

One man who knows all about dropped catches is James Tredwell.  The former Kent offspinner played two Tests for England in 2010 and had the extraordinary total of 10 dropped catches off his bowling, including seven on debut!

Tredwell still managed to capture 11 wickets at an average of 29 in his all too brief test career (although he was competing with the indomitable Graeme Swann for a place in the great England side of the early 2010s).

Slip fielding is crucial in cricket and especially test match cricket.

Also, Read – Picking England’s All-Time ODI XI

Hard Work To Perfect Slip Fielding

Jonty Rhodes of South Africa celebrates with teammates after the run out of Alec Stewart of England (not in picture) during the World Cup Zonal match between England and South Africa at the MCG, Melbourne, 12th March 1992. The England batsman is Neil Fairbrother. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Arguably the greatest fielder of all time was South Africa’s Jonty Rhodes. While not a slip fielder, Rhodes patrolled backward point like a lion eyeing up its prey (Rhodes actually said his hands were not “soft” enough for slip fielding).

When approaching the task of fielding, every cricketer should note the wise words of Rhodes, whether in the slips or not. It could be the difference between winning and losing

“Fielding isn’t work when you’re enjoying it.”

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