By Bryan Davis, Former West Indies Test cricketer
The adage that catches win matches is a truism in the game of cricket. While it is natural to be carried away with the artistic stroke-play of a batsman and be struck by the elegance of his flourishing style or the viciousness of his hooks and pulls, the gentle accepting of a catch by a fieldsman is not lapped up artistically. Of course, if it is a fantastic diving effort, one of those impossible exertions that bring out the determination of a fieldsman or the use of his fabulous reflexes that leaves the spectator gasping for breath, it is long remembered.
A bowler sprinting down 20 or more yards with a ferocious look to tremble the heart of a weak-kneed batsman, letting go the ball at the moment of delivery at a great pace exceeding 85 miles-per-hour, bowling the batsman out with stumps cartwheeling a distance, is the type of spectacle that those backing the fielding side paid their money to witness.
It’s just not the same as a hurried defensive prod and the ball spooning up into the air for the fieldsman to take a catch. A wicket has fallen in both types of dismissals, but the tumbling stump is more exciting than the simple catch.
Of course it is all part of the game. Moreover, the catch, regardless of how simple it may be, whether the keeper doesn’t have to move and takes it waist-high, or dives full-length to his left and snatches it in one glove stunningly, a couple of inches off the ground. The batsman is out and does not have to trouble the fielding team again nor the scorers!
And the same thing goes for the spinner who is working feverishly to flummox a batsman into mis-timing his drive or calculating the wrong length, the ball leaping high into the air by his playing the wrong stroke, only for the ball to be dropped.
The fieldsmen are there for tactical reasons, to prevent runs from being scored and to assist in getting rid of batsmen.
This brings me to my theme. For the past few years, including 2020 when the Trinidad & Tobago Red Force (TTRF) placed a welcome second in a curtailed season, I’ve heard time and time again, ad nauseam, from the coaches and managers that too many catches had been dropped. And to think that two of the best fieldsmen in the world, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, are from TTRF!
It is so disheartening for any team to spill catches. It breaks the bowler’s heart after all his sweating and straining to make his plan work; it frustrates the captain who engineered his bowling changes to rip out the stubborn batsman plus discourages the other fieldsmen, having witnessed a lost opportunity never to be regained. Sometimes, a great attempt is forgiven, as the actual crack at the chance helps lift the spirit of the team, however, the lackadaisical effort is the danger. Consequently, I get the feeling that these poor, overall performances by the TTRF over the past few years, can be directly linked to the definite gifting of opposing batsmen more than one innings in the middle because of sloppy catching.
The coach of the team has the responsibility of correcting this fault and should not ignore it, or at best, do not complain about it. Appropriately, he must ensure his batsmen have enough time in the nets practising, in order to be successful in a game, plus his bowler must bowl many overs in the nets to be worthy of prying batsmen out.
It’s no different with fieldsmen that they have catches taken in practice over and over again to win matches. Whatever they’re doing now is not enough!
Every catch that is dropped is one extra wicket the bowling team must take. Instead of ten wickets it goes to 11 and then to 12 increasingly with every catch that is dropped!
All victorious cricket sides ever, have been made so by their phenomenal fielding and catching. And regardless of how well their players’ bat or bowl, without top-class ground fielding and catching, success would never attach itself to its team.
Because of the sad circumstances we have found ourselves in with the march of the coronavirus, the home-based cricketers should find whatever little space they can and practise catching.
Any type of ball, cricket, tennis, golf, they all help with hand/eye coordination. I recommend the tennis ball as it’s easier on the hands and more difficult to catch than the cricket ball.
The golf ball also comes back at you quicker off the wall. Reflexes will improve hence you’ll become sharper! Make up games against yourself. Give yourself targets. Catching practice also helps with one’s batting prowess.