Fielding in the slips is quite strenuous. Bending at the knees when the bowler starts his run up and staying still in the process needs a lot of strength and muscle endurance to withstand fatigue. For the slip fielder, standing in the slips for 90 overs – 540 deliveries – in a day can be quite tiresome and the fielder may lose concentration due to fatigue, which can prove costly for his team. Hence a relaxed stance that puts less strain on mind and body is required.
The slip fielder stands with his feet shoulder-width apart. When the bowler starts his run up, his are hands are placed on his knees, and gradually the forearms are slid down the knees till the elbows touch the knees as the bowler reaches the bowling crease. The hands, cupped and soft, are brought in front of the head. The body weight is kept inside of the feet and balance is maintained by remaining on the balls of the feet.
|Remember : To bend from the knees and not from the back, as that would keep the body weight on the balls of the feet. If in this stance, your body weight put a strain on you, it infers that you are bending from your back and that your head is front of your toes.
Keeping the hands in front of the head and clear of the knees would ensure that your eyes are on the ball when catch is held.
Again, its suggested that individual differences may need minor adjustments, and if that feels comfortable and you are able to consistently catch everything that comes your way, stay with it. But the general principles form guidelines for the correct stance.
Improving your Slip catching
If you are serious about fielding in the slips, it is important that you practice seriously, and improve your technique. To do the latter, focussing on the following points could be of great help.
Depth of the slip fielder :
This depends on many factors like the pace of the bowler and the bounce in the wicket. But you can get a good clue from the position of the wicket keeper. The first slip normally stands about one yard behind and to the right of the wicket keeper for the right-handed batsman when a pace bowler is operating. Each successive slip is then positioned approximately one yard closer to the bat. This, of course, may vary with the pace of the bowler and the bounce in the pitch.
Spacing between the wicket keeper and the first slip fielder – and between the slip fielders, themselves – varies with the skill level of the wicketkeeper and that of the individuals fielding in the slips. Usually an outstretched arm’s length plus a foot or so is the suggested spacing.
You will observe with a little experience that If the pitch is fast paced, the edges go to the wicket keeper and the first slip. If the pitch is slow and lifeless, the batsman gets thick edges because the ball does not come on to the bat, hence the catches go wide of the wicket keeper or the first slip. Hence, when the pitch is slow, stand a bit wider.
When the ball is turning appreciably, stand closer to the wicket keeper. But if the ball is turning but not appreciably, stand wider for the thick edge.
When the pitch is bouncy, the ball carries a long distance and hence it is always advisable to stand a yard or two away from the bat. If the pitch is slow and the ball does not carry, come closer to the bat.
Picture this scene:
The fast bowler turns at the top of his run up, runs in aggressively, hops into his action and bowls real quick, putting everything behind that ball. The ball is pitched on a good length, moves away late and gets the edge of the bat. The bowler jumps in the air in anticipation of a catch. If the slip fielder accepts the catch, the bowler is elated. Otherwise he is dejected.
Bowlers all over the world will agree that close catchers are their most important allies. If you want to be a good, safe slip fielder then you got to develop patience, have a calm and quiet mind, good soft hands and concentration, and most important of all, you must enjoy fielding there.
It is the duty of the coaches to develop confidence in his close catchers. He must identify prospective slip fielders, and encourage and motivate them by stressing the importance and enjoyment of slip catching. He has to come up with varied and challenging slip catching drills during practice to make things interesting.
If you want to stand in the slips, then ensure you learn good slip catching technique. Listen and observe when the coach is demonstrating the catching basics. Don’t be afraid of asking questions and clarify your doubts. Always be on the lookout for advice from top class coaches and especially, proven slip experts.
When you are fielding in the slips, it is very important to know where to focus your attention as the bowler starts his run up. If you are fielding at first slip, then you watch the bowler in his run up, shift the eyes to his release as he delivers the ball, and watch it all the way to the batsman, whether he plays at it or leave’s it alone. This is exactly what the wicket keeper does. But if you are standing at second slip or gulley, then you don’t look at the bowler or the ball. It is important that you look at the outer edge of the bat. It is also important, if you want to do well as a slip fielder, to learn to relax as soon as the ball is on its way back to the bowler.
Video analysis provides meaningful feedback on the correct technique for individual players. Note the correction in a diary as that will help your self-assessment of slip catching skills and an appropriate action plan can then be drawn on improving and developing slip-catching skills.