Exclusive || Fielding has witnessed tactical evolution over the years: Biju George, Fielding Coach, Delhi Capitals

Cricket has evolved significantly over the decades which has pushed its different disciplines to evolve as well. While the two mainstream disciplines, batting and bowling, have become more aggressive and varied, fielding has been overlooked for quite some time. Fielding missed the kind of stature batting and bowling hold in the game of cricket.

But there were players who were exceptions to this, such as Jonty Rhodes, Yuvraj Singh, Ricky Pointing, Md. Kaif, Herschelle Gibbs, who always grabbed the limelight for their efforts on the ground and in many ways inspired generations to come. The last decade turned out to be revolutionary for the discipline of fielding where young generation cricketers like Virat Kohli, AB de Villers, Steve Smith, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Faf Du Plessis took it on an altogether different level.

This has changed the way fielding was perceived, it has received the attention it deserved and players started working equally hard for it as much as they train for batting and bowling. The Quotes in a conversation with Biju George, Fielding Coach, Delhi Capitals , further explored the subject. Excerpts of the conversation are as follows:

Q] Explain to our readers the dynamics of fielding and how fielding is usually set in a game?

Answer: Placing your best fielders at areas which will have more traffic during the game is the go to scenario. It’s the role of the skipper and senior pros in the team to understand the strength of opposite team’s batter and accordingly place their best fielders. As a coach we aim to strengthen the decision making of players which eventually helps them to trust their analysis and judgement while making an attempt to field the ball.

Fielding has been categorised into three different types. 1) Interception: When fielder has to intercept the ball and move accordingly. 2) Catching skill: The ball is hit and it travells with velocity either in air or along the ground,the flight path can be steeple, a parabola or can be flat. The ball along the ground can travel straight or veer away according to the turf condition or the spin on the bal. The fielder has to vector all these factors and decide upon the correct course of action either in caching or stopping. 3) Throwing: This involves getting into the right position so that you align properly (note: if you are not throwing off balance in pursuit of a half chance) and release the ball with the right velocity and trajectory towards the appropriate target wicket, here decision making comes in as he has to in a flash decide which end to throw at.

We are trained to teach all these aspect of the fielding to every cricketer. I must say that BCCI has identified the best fiedling coaches in the country which is showing results at international stage.

Q] Since the introduction of franchise cricket, we all have seen cricketers taking the subject of fielding more seriously, and from being one or two good fielders in the team to the whole squad putting their 100 percent in the middle. What led to such revolution?

Answer: The basics of fielding has remained same but the tactical aspects of the fielding has witnessed massive evolution. The game has become more aggressive due to which the rate at which it is producing result has increased significantly.

Batters have started exploring unique ways to hit the ball, bowlers have innovated techniques to control both the movement and pace of the ball and fielders pushed physical barriers to save the runs and pull off incredible blinders. Attaining supreme fitness has also helped players to save crucial boundaries and maximums.

I would like to specifically mention the name of Indian women all-rounder Jemimah Rodrigues, who is an exceptional fielder in the squad. Although, Australian women cricket team have proved their authority in terms of fielding, but Rodrigues has emerged as the best fielder in the world. I was part of the women’s national squad from 2017 to 2019, and witnessed massive growth in the approach of players. During 2017 World Cup, Indian women team had maximum number of run saves, catches and wicket-keeper dismissals.

Q] You have closely played a vital part in Indian cricket. From domestic cricket to the association with IPL franchises like KKR, Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad. What according to you is the difference in approach from players at these different layers, regardless of formats.

Answer: After closely observing the approach of players I can say that players at international stage are more professional and they value the time more than players are junior level.

If I recall the time when Rishabh Pant used to train in the DC camp, he was always determined and focused and knew what he needs to do to make the cut into the national squad. He was used to train for hours on every aspect of his game. Players at domestic level are bit casual but when they reach the international stage, they realise the need of the hour and change their attitude, which is good.

One cannot sustain at the highest level without putting everything. Look at players like Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and the whole crop in the national squad, they all have set such a commendable benchmark. I would like to convey the message to all aspiring domestic level cricketers that putting the same commitment from now on will surely help them achieve their dream of playing internationally.

Q] Cricket has witnessed massive evolution over the last decade. Coaching is another vital aspect of the game which moves along parallelly. What has been your observation in terms of how coaching has evolved over the years?

Answer: I would like to credit the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for felicitating the best coaching training at National Cricket Academy. The aspiring coaches go through Level 0, 1, 2, and 3. Special attention is given to their teaching and fact is that they are responding to all the learnings. BCCI uses advance technology and hire the best trainers in the business, not just for cricketers and coaches, but other staff members like pitch curators. Indian coaches are the best in the world in terms of knowledge, passion and zeal to prepare the best crop of cricketers for future generation.

Q] What is your take on IPL getting two month-window in ICC FTP cycle and kindly share your observation regarding how IPL has helped cricket to evolve?

Answer: Indian Premier League has completely transformed cricket and made India the leader in the world. BCCI has perfectly grabbed the market and used it very sensibly. Majority of people usually see the profits which BCCI makes off of IPL, but India’s apex body for cricket is also giving more than that to the world cricket. All the foreign players get access to the best of technology and training during IPL period.

All the learnings they take home from IPL, they use it for their own country eventually. So, it would not be wrong to say that IPL has sparked evolution in cricket and has helped the sport to attain its best. Cricket fans witness contest of the highest degree during month-long IPL tournament and it would be nothing less than a blessing for all if IPL gets a two-month window.

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