Controlling the Ring
Never has as much short form cricket been played around the world and as often happens in recreational cricket, whatever is going on at the top has a knock on effect out of the professional game and into recreational cricket.
Many competitions now in Australia play lots of white ball, short form cricket, usually but not always for championship points. (Points allocation in itself is a hotly discussed topic especially for T20 in a competition where league tables are often known more commonly as ladders in Oz.)
Anyway winning and losing white ball cricket matches often come down to the last balls of the game and frequently games are won and lost by a single run here and there and sides regularly reflect on a fielding mistake, a bowling delivery being retaken and so on..
Controlling the ring in white ball cricket refers of course to the job allocated to close fielders in the fielding side often referred to as ring fielders. An ability to create pressure on batsmen looking to take quick singles can often lead to errors of judgement by batsman looking to squeeze every single opportunity to rotate the strike. Indeed dot balls are viewed upon grimly by us coaches, especially when they are in large volumes.
Fielding teams love dot balls (named after how they are recorded in the scorebooks) and the ability of a bowler to bowl the ball in a way whereby the batsmen are limited in how they can look to score runs with low risk really highlights the need for good ring fielders.
Often by simply executing consecutive deliveries, where fielders are successful in stopping singles, (or boundaries) being scored, the chances of creating a run out increase, especially if the game is at a stage where a high numbers of runs per over is required.
Teams practice executing runs outs at training. The batsman or coach hits the ball to a fielder and the game is to attack the ball and have a throw at the stumps (or usually just one stump). Usually the higher the level of cricket, the more inclined a batsman would be to hit the ball either at or very close to a fielder and call for a run.
Below I’ve listed the top pointers I encourage my lads to be aware of when we are in the ring in terms of building pressure to save runs and create run out opportunities;
- Extra cover and mid wicket be in line with either the crease line or stump line, bowlers end, at the point of ball contact with the bat. This gives fielders a chance to still walk in and gives a SPECIFIC reference point for these two fielders for EVERY BALL and EVERY GAME.
- I reckon these two fielders should be about 5 pitch widths away from the stumps at either side, with mid on and mid off on the edge of the ring half the distance between the fielder and the stumps (tactic – most deliveries are pitched up and this gives 4 fielders & the bowler chance to field the ball each time).
- Be aware of backing up the stumps EVERY BALL – do not switch off just because the ball went on the other side of the pitch to you. There`s ALWAYS the chance a random throw is coming your way and overthrows are a killer.
- Be aware of the game circumstances. If a batsman is in and set he is more likely to want to hit boundaries than take quick singles. Be assured the tactic will be to get this guy off strike and bowl at the new batsman or the player less likely to whack the ball. This is the guy who will want to take quick singles. There are times when your starting point will be slightly deeper to the aggressor than it would be to the facilitator.
- Try to watch the hands of the batsman as he plays a stroke. I guarantee you will be able to see little pointers as you get more experienced which will help you anticipate how a batsman is going to play tip and run.
Have a look at this link from an article I wrote back in August about picking the ball up cleanly
Bowlers and the rest of the team can get quite angry quite quickly when a single is taken when it shouldn’t have been or a run out missed because of a fumble. Games can be won and lost by the fielding team’s ability to bowl to more balls to the less aggressive batsman.
Ring fielding is definitely an art, its high pressure stuff at times and players must concentrate if they are to be given the responsibility of that position. A run out opportunity is never far away and you don’t want to be the one to miss it because your mind is wondering.