Fielding has changed massively in cricket over the years, due to a wide variety of reasons. But here’s the main one. T20 cricket.
The introduction of T20 cricket, and the subsequent creativity of batsmen such as Tillakaratne Dilshan with his infamous ‘Dilscoop’ shot, and the aggression which has emerged from that into all forms of the game, by those like Virender Sehwag (Who has an impressive test match career strike rate of 82.23) has forced the bowling sides to think about how they can stem the flow of runs from the other end.
Bowlers have long been proficient at all variations of slower balls, cutters and yorkers and death bowlers such as Lasith ‘Slinger’ Malinga and Dale Steyn are dangerous game changers, but there’s been nothing new to see for a while.
So, the bowlers aren’t doing anything new. The batsmen are getting more aggressive and more creative. There’s only one area where there’s room for improvement. In the field.
Sure the tactics have changed, but I’m not going to bore you with the details. The most notable difference for me, is actually the desire, teamwork and creativity that fielders now show. The desire Andrew Strauss showed to take this famous slip catch off Adam Gilchrist is a primary example of this. In the picture it seems as if he is virtually flying! An incredible catch.
Also consider, how 20 years ago a well timed ball goes flying past someone in the covers, and they wouldn’t hunt it down to see if they could save the boundary. Now, in all forms of the game, we see fielders hunt in twos. One chases it down, while another from a nearby position follows in anticipation of their team-mate diving, and sliding the ball back to them, all before making contact with the boundary rope.
Now here comes the creativity. The Natwest T20 Blast has seen the emergence of two incredible catches, both from Yorkshire duo Aaron Finch and Adam Lyth. The first of the two, is this one in the War of the Roses. Lancashire were flying on 68-1 off 6.5 overs, and then this happens.
And, then when you thought it couldn’t get much better, they produce an even more impressive carbon copy against Leicestershire later on in the tournament.
The phrase “catches win matches” has always been true. But with T20 matches often coming down to the last ball, teams are recognising just how much of significant difference fielding and creative catching can make in counteracting aggressive batting, and the knowledge and skills for this, is transferring into all forms of the game. The prospect of seeing catches like Finch & Lyth’s common place in cricket is exciting. Whatever next!?