A question of give or take

To Chelmsford, for a seminar on how to coach wicket keepers with Barry Hyam, Performance Manager at Essex CCC and Lead Wicket Keeping Coach for England Women’s team (and half a dozen other titles – he is a very busy man).

Barry talked about the modern way of taking the ball – when the keeper takes the ball, his hands stay strong and do not give with the ball.

And it was at this point that many of the coaches present, mostly ECB Coaches and Assistant Coaches (levels 1 and 2), a lot of us having only completed our most recent qualifications in the last year or so, started to look confused.  The keeper’s hands do not give.

Something new, here!

In an enthralling session, Barry talked about the importance of posture (in the modern style – the “Z” position, with feet shoulder-width apart or wider, knees bent, body inclined forward from the waist with a straight back), timing (when to stand up, and taking the ball) and, pre-eminently, how the keeper’s hands should work.

In the Z position, the keeper extends his hands forward and down, so that they are roughly beneath and slightly ahead of his nose.  And that is where they should stay – hands (and head) on the line of the ball, head over the hands, ball taken in this extended position with the fingers closing around the ball as it thuds into the gloves.  The hands stay strong, and there is NO GIVE as the ball is caught.

We (the trainee coaches) all had to watch this several times, as one of the Essex Academy keepers demonstrated the technique.  Ball watched all the way into gloves, fingers close to complete the catch, still with the eyes glued to the ball, now firmly held in the gloves.

Barry explained further how a keeper can judge how well he is taking the ball simply by the sound it makes as he takes the catch.  The low thud is the ideal – just a single contact, with the fingers closed by the force of the incoming ball.  A higher pitched brushing or whistling sound probably means the hands are closing too soon, and the ball has flicked a finger on the way into the palms of the gloves – risking spilling the catch, and injury.

It worked so well, but I wanted more evidence – is this really what the professionals are doing?  To the DVD collection, and the 2010-11 Ashes series.  In the Boxing Day Test, Matt Prior took 6 catches in the first innings.  Every time, he watched the ball right into his gloves, hands held forward of the body, fingers closed around the ball…and even to the pace of Chris Tremlett and Jimmy Anderson, the gloves barely moved an inch to “cushion” the ball – NO GIVE.  And 6 catches in an Ashes-winning team performance.

Finally, this started to ring a few bells.  Back to PitchVision Academy (definitely worth following, by the way), for an article posted back in 2009, about the need to catch with strong hands, not soft.

So it looks like the coaching books (and my coaching sessions) on keeping and catching might need to be updated!

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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