9. Fielding

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The captain is the person who sets the field in conjunction with the bowler. For every field position there is a unique name such as slip, square-leg etc. With the exception of the fielding restrictions rules mentioned earlier, fielders may be placed anywhere in the field. Captains put the fielders in positions which they feel is optimal. For example, a fielder with a strong arm, who can throw the ball fast are usually placed near the boundary. Fielders with sharp reflexes are placed close to the batsmen.

An attacking field is one in which fielders are positioned in such a way that they are likely take catches, and thus likely to get the batsman out. Such a field generally involves having many fielders close to the batsman. A defensive field is one in which most of the field is covered by a fielder; the batsman will therefore find it hard to score large numbers of runs. This generally involves having many fielders far from the batsman and in front of him, in the positions where he is most likely to hit the ball.


A mis-field occurs if the fielder drops a catch or doesn't field a hit ball clearly enabling the batman to pinch an extra run or two. The bowler and the wicket-keeper usually stand behind either wicket after a ball is hit. A few infielders also position themselves behind so as to field the ball if either of the two fails to cleanly collect the ball – this is known as backing up.

If the ball is thrown to either of them and the fielders backing up also fail to collect the ball, then the batsmen can run overthrows, which are additional runs credited to them. Overthrows may also be garnered if the thrown ball hits the wickets directly, and ricochets in an odd direction.

Attack when

  • When a new batsman comes to bat, before he gets acclimatised to the conditions.
  • Attack when the ball is new as fast bowlers get the most swing and bounce with a newer ball, factors that make it harder to play without making an error.
  • Attack when returning from a break in play as batsmen must settle into a batting rhythm again after the resumption.
  • Attack with quality bowlers as the team's best bowlers take the most wickets, so get the most benefit from the support of an attacking field.
  • Attack when the pitch helps the bowler as such conditions can lead to catches flying to close attacking fielders.
  • Attack when the batting team is under pressure.

Defend when

  • The batsmen are settled in and scoring runs at will as it is difficult to get batsmen out when they have been batting for a long time and are comfortable with the bowling.
  • If batting team needs to score runs quickly in situations where the batting team must score quickly in order to win or press an advantage. Slowing down the rate of scoring runs lessens their chance of doing so.
  • Defend when the batting team is scoring quickly as it is unlikely they are offering many chances to get them out, so reduce the run scoring rate.
  • Defend when the ball and pitch offer no help to the bowlers as there no point in having an attacking field.
  • Defend when using weak bowlers to limit the potential damage by containing the free scoring of runs.
Many factors govern the decisions on field placements, including: the tactical situation in the match; which bowler is bowling; how long the batsman has been in; the wear on the ball; the state of the wicket; the light; or even how close you are to an interval in play.

Field modifiers

[Graphic: The cricket field]
  • The cricket field

To describe certain fielding positions, modifiers are used along with the basic field positions. To illustrate some modifiers, I'll take the position of mid-on which is exactly on the 30 yard circle (27 m). An imaginary line can be drawn from the striker to this fielder. If the fielder is placed along that line into the outfield near the boundary, it becomes deep mid-on. If he is placed closer, it becomes short mid-on. If the fielder stands near the edge of the pitch, very close to the batsman, it is silly mid-on.

'Square' is the modifier used to describe the region along the batting crease up to the boundary, on either side of the pitch. Fine is the modifier used to describe the imaginary line connecting both wickets extended behind the wicket-keeper. Travelling in an arc towards the region behind the wicket-keeper becomes finer, and the reverse becomes squarer.

The modifier backward is use to describe the entire region beyond the batting crease, behind the batsman. In front of the batting crease towards the bowler, it is known as forward.

Some notable positions

[Graphic: Field positions in cricket]
  • Names of the field positions in cricket

Slips are fielders placed in a parabolic arc on the off-side from the wicket-keeper. Slip fielders have to take sharp reflex catches off the edge of the bat. They are an almost permanent feature in test matches but in ODI matches, slips are used generally for the first few overs. All nine fielders can be placed as slips. Slips are numbered outwards; the first slip is the closest to the wicket-keeper. A fly-slip is a deeper position on the 30 yard circle. The third-man is in the deep at the boundary.

The point is a crucial position on the off-side. The fielder placed here is usually the best in the team as he saves a lot of crucial runs as well as takes many catches in this region. The next best fielder is placed at square-leg on the on-side.

The straight-hit, fly-slip, slips greater than the fifth slip are almost never used. Similarly the long-stop behind the wicket-keeper has never been used for the past 100 years in international cricket!

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