I T has been said that any one can field well if he looks out for every ball and tries his hardest. I do not altogether agree with that, for I have seen more than one cricketer do his very best and yet fall short of what is considered firstclass form; but I am strongly of opinion that perseverance and attention are the essential points which every young fieldsman must keep in mind. In fielding, as in batting and bowling, success can only be achieved after long practice and experience. I sometimes think that our representative teams are chosen without sufficient consideration of the fitness of some of the players for the positions in the field where they are almost sure to be placed; for more than once I have noticed a man who was known to be good close in compelled to go out to the long-field, because there was no one else who could do better. Not being accustomed to that position, he could not do himself justice.
It may be safely taken for granted, then, that for one player who can go anywhere in the field with credit to himself there are a dozen, if not more, who are only fit for one position. Messrs. V. E. Walker, A. N. Hornby, Geo. Strachan, and Ulyett in their best days, and Messrs. A. E. Stoddart, S. M. J. Woods, and Peel and Maurice Read at the present time, may be quoted as fine illustrations of first-class all-round fieldsmen. Activity, dash and throwing-in are the qualities which are indispensable to enable a fieldsman to go anywhere. Speed and being able to throw-in well are, more or less, gifts which belong to the few; but dash and certainty are the fruits of long practice, which most players can acquire if they give their mind to them. The most of those I have named are always on the look-out and seem to know when the ball is coming their way, and pick it up and return in one action.
A lazy or indifferent fieldsman has a demoralising effect on the rest of the eleven, and is an eyesore to every lover of the game: a very bad one will, probably, lose more runs than he makes, and is better out of the team altogether. A good man may not always bat or bowl up to his best form; but, if he tries, can always save runs in the field. The young player should keep that before him, if he desires to play in good matches; for every Committee and Captain know and consider it in the selection of a team.
Before touching upon the different positions in the field, I shall mention a few points which every beginner should carry in his mind:
I. Always be on the look-out; and use two hands, if possible.
II. Keep your legs together when the ball is hit straight to you.
III. Do not dash in too quickly.
IV. Pick up the ball and throw it in with one action,
V. Throw at the wicket-keeper's head, or so that the ball will bound to the bails.
VI. Always back up when the ball is thrown in; but do not go too near to the wicket-keeper or bowler, or you will miss it: about eight yards is the best distance to be from each other in backing up.
VII. Always try for a catch. Impossible things are not expected of you; but you never know what you can reach until you try.
VIII. Keep your hands out of your pockets, and never wear a jacket or coat in the field. A sweater will interfere very little with your movements and keep you warm enough under all circumstances.
IX. Do not go into the field with a cigarette or a pipe in your mouth.
X. Go cheerfully and promptly. to whatever position the bowler or captain sends you.
XI. If you make a mistake, do your best to rectify it.
These are golden maxims, which every player should consider carefully; but the whole secret of success lies in his trying all he can. My brother Fred and Jupp used to go after everything and try for every catch, as if the match depended on their individual efforts; and the extraordinary results which followed surprised themselves as well as others. There is no finer sight in the cricket field than a brilliant fieldsman doing his utmost; and every feat he performs meets with quick and hearty recognition by the spectators. Grounds generally are now as near as can be to perfection, and fine fielding has become comparatively easy.
The grounds of the past were not to be compared with those of to-day. The best pitches were, as a rule, treacherous and kicked a good deal. I do not know what might not be said of the out-fielding. It is told of Clarke's All-England Eleven that, on one occasion when they played in Cornwall, one of the players flushed a covey of partridges in the long-field, so excellent was the cover. As a contrast to this it might to-day be said of every important ground that a wicket could be pitched on any part of it, and that a false bound in the field is the exception rather than the rule. I shall now refer to the different positions in the field, and begin with the
He is worthy of the first place; for there is little doubt that his is the most important and responsible position of all. He should stand so that he can take the ball immediately it passes the wicket, and at once knock the bails off if necessary.
I would refer my readers to the illustration of G. McGregor on page 197. He (as well as Blackham, the prince of wicket-keepers) stands so close that the fingers almost touch the bails. Their hands are touching each other unless the ball is wide of the wicket, and catching or stumping is done without any show or fuss. They always stand with a full front to the bowler, and seldom move the feet unless the ball is very wide.
The wicket-keeper should be always on the alert, and if he has a doubt as to whether the foot is over the crease should whip off the bails, especially when the ball is on the leg side; for he cannot always see with certainty. But should he knock the bails off when he knows the batsman is in his ground, he should replace them quietly without appealing. Nothing looks so bad in a wicket-keeper as fussiness and appealing without reason.
Until late years our amateur wicket-keepers have never been up to the form of the professional; and by good judges it has been considered owing to their habit of standing too far back, and snapping at the ball instead of taking it quietly.The wicket-keeper should be quick to go after a ball when it is near the wicket, or when it is played to leg where there is no fieldsman, and try to save the run. He should always be behind the wicket when the ball is thrown in to him. He must not mind hard
"HOW 'S THAT?"
(From Drawing by N. Felix, 1853.)
As far as hard knocks go, wicket-keepers to-day have reason to be thankful for improved grounds; and perhaps that may, in a degree, account for the better form shown by them.
The best amateur wicket-keepers I have met were J. Round, E. F. S. Tylecote, J. A. Bush, G. A. B. Leatham, A. Lyttelton, H. Philipson, J. McC. Blackham, G. McGregor, and A. T. Kemble. The best professionals were Lockyer, Biddulph, Finder, Plumb, Pooley, Phillips, Pilling, and Sherwin. Some took slow bowling best, some fast. Blackham, McGregor, and Lyttelton might be placed as the best of the amateurs; while Pilling was, undoubtedly, the best of the professionals. With the exception of Blackham and McGregor no amateur has been up to the form of the professionals.
Long-stopping is fast becoming a thing of the past; owing to the improvement in grounds and in wicketkeeping, and bowling. A good man was wanted for that post to such fast bowlers as Sir Frederick Bathurst and Messrs. Mynn, Marcon and Fellowes, especially on rough, bumpy wickets, when most of the balls kept kicking and twisting; but to-day the bowling is straighter, and a ball rarely gets past both batsman and wicket-keeper. I am speaking of first-class cricket: in second-class matches the wicket-keeper is not always efficient and a long-stop may be necessary. He should stand rather deep, but close enough to save a bye; and he must be a quick and accurate thrower, and never get bustled or lose his head when a sharp run is attempted. He must be quick to decide at which wicket to throw. The Rev. C. H. Ridding, Mr. H. Perkins, Mr. H. M. Marshall and Mortlock, were the most expert long-stoppers at the time when long-stop was even of more importance than the wicket-keeper. The first-named had a wonderfully good return, and knew, as if by instinct, at which end there was the greater chance of a run-out. He stood rather on the leg side, and was very quick to back up sharp returns to the wicket-keeper.
The qualities required to make a good short-slip are judgment, quickness and a safe pair of hands. He must have sound judgment to know how far to stand from the wicket according to the pace of the bowling, for the bowler does not always know. He must be quick to get to a ball coming low down or going over his head at lightning pace; and he must have a safe pair of hands, and be able to hold the ball even if he loses his balance and stumbles in reaching it. He should stand slightly stooping, with his eyes on the ball and the batsman; but not so near that he cannot see the ball properly, or he will miss all the quick snicks. The state of the wicket will always be a guide to a great extent, and he must be on the look-out for every change in the pace and flight of the ball.
The position used to be filled by the bowler when not bowling, to save him from running and over-exertion; but now-a-days the post is one which gives plenty of exercise, as he has to run after most of the snicks which pass the wicket-keeper. He must back up the wicketkeeper to save overthrows, take his place when he leaves the wicket, and be able to throw smartly and accurately.Alfred Shaw was very successful in that position, and Watson and Abel are exceptionally good at it to-day. Lohmann is a marvel: he seems to be able to get to everything within six feet of him; and anything he
FIELD PLACED FOR SLOW ROUND-ARM BOWLING.
This position can only be filled by a really good man, for it is one in which temper and judgment will be tried to the utmost. He is expected to stop everything that comes to him, for, if he miss it, it may mean a boundary hit, and if he is too far away, the batsman will steal a sharp run. Whatever the state of the ground, but particularly if at all rough, the ball, after it pitches, comes twisting and kicking; and if he is standing too square, he will have to try for it with his left hand. The slightest mistake, and the batsman is off; and the fraction of a second makes all the difference between a run and a run-out. The fieldsman must never get flurried, must be quick to decide the wicket to be thrown at, and not forget to throw the ball straight at the wicket-keeper or bowler's head, or so that it will fall into his hands about the height of his chest after first bound.
Sharp runs have a most demoralising effect on some fieldsmen; and I remember, on more than one occasion, in an important match third man losing his head completely and mistakes and overthrows were the result.Third man must ask the bowler whether he should stand rather fine or square; he should also find out whether the batsmen are quick or slow in running, so that he may go close in or deep as the case may be. Four of the best men in this position at the present time are Messrs. A. E. Stoddart, P. J. de Paravicini, and Gunn and Maurice Read.
A good point must have perfect eyesight, a pair of very safe hands, and the activity of a cat; but even with these it will take many years before he becomes first-class. It is essential for him to know something of the style of every batsman; for upon that depends whether he will do brilliant things, or simply stop the balls that come straight to him. It is a matter of opinion whether he should watch the ball or the batsman, but everyone is agreed that he should not stand perfectly still in one position. His original position should be in a line with the wicket, or a little in front of it, according to the pace of the bowling and condition of the ground. The left foot should be a little in advance, the body slightly stooping, and the hands ready to receive the ball.
Nerve goes a great length in that position; and those who have it most perform the greatest feats. My brother E. M., was the finest point I have ever seen; for not only did he bring off some extraordinary catches that came at a terrific pace straight to him, but he could tell, almost by intuition, where the batsman meant to put the ball; and no matter how close he stood, never failed to hold it. With a poky batsman he took the most outrageous liberties, and times without number he has taken the ball within an inch or two of the bat. He exercised a magnetic influence upon certain batsmen. No matter how hard they tried they could not keep the ball away from him, and Jupp in his later days got fairly stuck up by his restless activity and catlike quickness. He was equally certain with either hand whether the ball was hit at his feet or a foot or two above his head.
V. E. Walker, T. S. Pearson and Carpenter were excellent points also, and W. W. Read and Shrewsbury are quite as good. All of them stand much further back than my brother. Mr. Walker was the quickest of the five, and was very good at finding out in an over or so the batsman's strength and weakness.
Cover-point affords plenty of opportunities for a brilliant fieldsman to distinguish himself. He gets plenty of work; for if he is unable to get to the ball when it is hit anywhere near to him, he has to go after it at his best pace, in the hope of stopping it before it reaches the boundary. Pick-up and return must be one action, or the batsman will steal a sharp run; and he must be quick and accurate in his return, or overthrows will occur pretty often. To fast bowling he may stand rather deep and wait for the ball, but to medium pace and slow he must dart in if he wants to save the run. He has to gauge to a yard the exact position to stand, and he must be constantly on the look-out; for, as a rule, he gets twice as much work as any two other fieldsmen. He must be prepared for an occasional curly one breaking away from him, which he will do well to stop. If, when dashing in to save the run, he cannot get into position to throw in his usual way, an underhand return can be utilised.
Messrs. Halifax Wyatt, G. Strachan, W. W. Read, Rev. Vernon Royle, and John Smith, of Cambridge, were brilliant in that position, and worked untiringly. Messrs. Gregory and J. Shuter, Briggs, and Peel, are just as good to-day. Mr. Gregory's fine exhibition was one of the features of the fielding of the 1890 Australian team.
It is not so very many years ago that the weakest fieldsman in the eleven was invariably placed at short-leg. A complete change has taken place with respect to that position, and a quick eye and a safe pair of hands are now as much needed there as in any part of the field. Leghitting is very little resorted to now, for the reason that a first-class bowler rarely bowls one on that side; but the batsman tries hard to play away to leg everything bowled on the leg-stumps and pads, and the fieldsman has to be as nimble as a cat to save the run. He has also to go as close in as he can with safety, so as to get hold of a catch. Very often when it comes to him there is a fair amount of spin on it, and if he is not very careful he will miss it altogether.
Short-leg must keep his wits about him, for the ball is on him instantly; and should it pass, will most probably travel for two or three runs. He must be quick to detect the intention of the batsman, whether he means to play it fine, square, or more in the direction of mid-on; but he must be guided by the wish of the bowler as to where he should stand. He should stand slightly stooping, with his hands ready for the ball to drop into them; and be quick to save overthrows from cover-point and mid-off. Against a poky batsman, on a sticky wicket, he has often as many opportunities as point of bringing off a smart catch. He must keep his head under all circumstances, but especially when a sharp run is attempted: the slightest indecision then, and the run-out is lost. A bad thrower should never be placed there, or overthrows will be of common occurrence, and many a run out lost.
Owing to the accuracy of the bowling, very few balls are now hit to long-leg. Fast bowling without length in the old days was not uncommon, and one never was surprised to see a ball hit to leg as often as anywhere else; but I have seen many a long innings played in the last year or two with only a few hits to leg in it. To medium-pace bowling so accurate as we have now, there is no need for a long-leg, and a man can be better utilised on the off-side; indeed, most bowlers would rather have an extra man there, and take the chance of an occasional one being pulled or hit to leg.
My brother Fred, and J. Smith of Cambridgeshire were the best in that position of all the cricketers I have known. They had the four things required to fill it: a safe pair of hands, dash, speed, and good throwing. Rarely did they fail to bring off a catch they could get to, and I have seen batsman after batsman afraid to hit out when either was in that part of the field. They could tell to a yard whether they had to move forward or go back, and never thought anything out of their reach; but it was in their dash they shone conspicuously over others. They did not expect to save the first run, but they considered it bad fielding if a second were obtained. Immediately the batsman hit they were on move, and they covered the first ten yards at top speed, and had the ball into the wicket-keepers' hands almost as soon as the first run was finished. If they could use both hands, they invariably did it; but if time did not permit, they were equally certain with right or left, and they did not forget to allow for the spin which is more or less on every ball hit to leg. Their throw-in was as straight as an arrow, and invariably fell into the wicketkeeper's hands first-bound a foot above the wicket. They rarely stopped a ball with their foot; for they were strongly of opinion that a good fieldsman in that position could stop anything possible more effectually with his hand, and that upon the quick pick-up and return depended the saving of the second run.
Another good quality of theirs was their judgment in knowing whether to stand fine or square. Very rarely do you meet two batsmen who hit exactly alike to leg. My brother and Smith generally thought of that, and could tell exactly where to go without being told to nearly every batsman they played against.
Mid-on is one of the easiest places in the field; for there is no twist on the ball, and the fieldsman has plenty of time to see it coming to him. His position depends entirely on the bowling, and he is placed close in or deep according to the wish of the bowler. Boyle fielding close in to Spofforth's bowling was a fine illustration of what can be done against certain batsmen when fieldsman and bowler have perfect faith in each other; but the fact of it not being generally adopted shows that it will not do for every-day use. On a line with the bowler's wicket is the position usually taken, but a great deal will depend on the activity of the batsmen. If they are very quick runners, the fieldsman should go as near as he can with safety, and he should practise picking-up and throwing-in underhand. The state of the ground must always be remembered: when it is dry and fast, he should not be too near; but when it is soft and slow, he should gocloser in.
The position of mid-off is rather more difficult to fill than that of mid-on, especially to a slow left-hand bowler.. The ball has a slight twist on it; and often when it is. hit, it rises at a peculiar and trying angle. It is just the distance when the ball is at its greatest velocity, and a catch that, at first sight, looks as if it could be taken breast-high has often to be taken above the head. There is rather a peculiar sensation for a second when/ the ball comes that way, and it requires a good man tocatch it.
Messrs. I. D. Walker, A. J. Webbe, and F. Townsend are very good in that position. I have seen them bring off catch after catch at all conceivable altitudes sometimes with one hand, sometimes with both. Now it would be at a foot from the ground, then breastliigh, and occasionally with hand fully extended over the head. Messrs. W. J. Ford and A. N. Hornby used to be difficult men to field to in that position, their hitting being exceptionally hard and low. The ball came like a flash of lightning sometimes actually humming and required a very quick eye and hand to stop it. More than once the fieldsman has been seen to draw away from it altogether. Against good batsmen who play hard from the wicket and place the ball, mid-off has plenty of work to save the run. He must be constantly on the watch, and dash in immediately the ball leaves the bat; in fact, he should be able to tell from the nature of the ball bowled whether it is likely to come his way, and should be on the move as soon as it is hit. If the bowling is round the wicket, he should not go quite so far out as he would when it is over; for the bowler cannot cover so much ground on his side when bowling that way.
FIELD PLACED FOR FAST ROUND-ARM BOWLING.
I question if there is any position in the field that the beginner should practice so much as that of longfield. He should begin with having the ball thrown low and straight at him at a distance of forty yards; afterwards he should go back further, and have it thrown higher into the air; and then at a distance away from him that he can reach at full speed. He will find that in each case making the catch is slightly different, but waiting for and bringing off a very lofty one most difficult of all. When the ball is dropping into his hands, he should allow them to give a little to it, or it will rebound out of them. A brilliant out-fieldsman is worth his place in any eleven for the work he can do there alone. Upon him will depend whether the hit is to count one, two, or four runs: a mistake there means, in most cases, a boundary hit.
One sterling cricketer comes to my mind who is a grand example of what I mean: Mr. P. J. de Paravicini. From the time Mr. Paravicini captained the Eton XI. in '80 and '81 down to the present time, no player has shown more clearly what a quick pair of legs, a safe pair of hands, and a sound head can do in the long-field. He is dashing and safe, equally good with both hands, and does not know what an impossible catch means. Some of his feats for Middlesex have been quite phenomenal.
Many a match has been lost by bad generalship; so it may be safely said that an eleven in the field is of little use without a good captain at the head of it. The ideal captain should possess sound judgment, enthusiasm, firmness and good temper, and have plenty of patience; for his duties are numerous, and he is certain to have these qualities severely tried during a long or close match. I have said elsewhere that an experienced captain before tossing takes into consideration the light and state of the ground. There are other things as well that make or mar a match: the time for drawing stumps and interval allowed for luncheon. These, though seemingly small points, should always be decided before tossing, or unpleasantness may follow.
If the toss falls in his favour, the captain should, as a rule, decide for his side to bat first; for the wicket is generally better, and every batsman is more likely to score when he is fresh than when tired: besides, the light is invariably better in the morning than in the evening, and it is easier to save runs than make them at a pinch.
It used to be thought bad judgment to put two quick scorers in together, the reason given being that they would run each other off his legs in consequence. I do not think it matters much to-day when nearly every hit of any force goes to the boundary and there is little occasion to run more than one run. Twenty-five years ago it was different; for a hit for six one ball, and seven the next, occurred now and then, and, as there were no boundaries, two free-hitters very soon tired themselves out.
A captain, once he has decided upon the order of his men going in, should stick to it, unless exceptional circumstances arise which, according to his judgment, demand a change—such as keeping back a good man a few minutes before time for drawing stumps, or a sudden change in the light. He should also impress on his men the importance of going promptly to the wicket when their turn comes. Carelessness in that respect shows ignorance of the laws, is annoying to the other side, and not likely to improve the form of the batsman who is waiting.
If his bowlers are fair bats he should not put them down very low on the list; for it is now pretty well known that if a bowler makes runs, he cannot bowl well without a short rest. Lohmann never bowls up to his proper form if he has made a score just before he begins. The hitting has cramped his fingers, and he cannot feel the ball properly for an over or two. His is not a solitary case.
A captain has now the power of closing his innings anytime on the last day of a match; but great judgment is required to do it at the right moment. If he be halfhearted or timid, he will decide to do so when it is absolutely certain that he cannot lose; but it is just as likely that his delay of half-an-hour, or even a quarter, has made it impossible for him to win. If he have pluck and dash, and does not mind risking a little, he may snatch a brilliant victory a few minutes before time. Personally I side with a forward policy, and would rather any day have an exciting finish than one in which players and spectators have lost all interest.
Between the innings, and on each morning when his side is going to bat, the captain should see that the pitch is carefully and thoroughly rolled. I am glad to say that there is little need of this on our leading and best county grounds; still, it should not be neglected.
A captain has greater responsibility on his shoulders when his eleven is in the field. His hardest task is to make the best use of the bowling under his command. Occasionally when the wicket is difficult the first twobowlers may get the batsmen out without a change being necessary; and the captain may have little to do but see that his fieldsmen are always in their proper places. But when the wicket is an easy one a long innings is oftener the case, and ha is sure to have his skill and resources tried to the utmost. He should always begin with what he considers his two best bowlers, and never forget that a difference in pace and style is likely to prove most effective. A fast right-hand bowler at one end and a slow left-hand at the other is a powerful combination.
Should these fail to come off, the captain should. not hesitate to make a change, if only for a few overs. Any change is better than none. A very good plan is tomake it after 20 runs have been scored, if no wicket has fallen. A change should also be made after a series of maiden-overs without a wicket falling. Of course, there are times when a bowler is out of luck. He keeps beating the batsman ball after ball, but the wicket does not fall, or perhaps catches are missed off him. In that case, the captain will do right to keep him on a little longer.
The bowler should be allowed to place his own field. At the same time, the captain should make suggestions now and again about having another man in the longfield, an extra short-leg or cover-point; anything, in fact, that would tend to get the batsmen out. The captain should keep his eye on all the field, and notice at the beginning of each over whether they are in their right places. Some fieldsmen cannot stand in the same place two overs in succession, and it is very annoying to the bowler to see runs scored off him on account of it. The captain should also notice whether the field back up properly, and set them a good example in that respect. He should also field, if possible, somewhere near the wicket, so that he may be able to watch the bowling. In that position, he will have better command of the team than anywhere in the long-field. When a ball is skied and two men go for it, he should immediately shout the name of the fieldsman who has the better chance of bringing off the catch. Quick decision then will save them from colliding, and often prevent an easy catch from being missed.
In conclusion, let me say that, whether in the field or out of it, the captain should not openly reprimand any of his eleven for a mistake. A word or two spoken quietly will have more effect; and he should remember, above all things, to set a good example and always practise what he preaches.