In a game of cricket, fielding is generally an action which involves players to retrieve the ball every time it is hit by the batsman.
It is done to limit the runs scored by the batsman or to get the batsman out while the ball is in flight or to get him run out by throwing it at the wickets when the batsman is out of his crease.
A fielder can stop the ball with any part of his body but cannot use hat or gloves to stop it. If he does so, the ball is considered a dead ball and additional five penalty runs are added to the opposition.
Fielding was not a priority in earlier days of cricket but with modern and professional approach to the game, fielding has become an important aspect in deciding which way the match will tilt.
In a game of cricket each team comprises of 11 players in which two positions i.e. the wicketkeeper and the bowler is fixed. The rest of the 9 positions can be changed at any time expect when the bowler has started his run up to bowl a delivery.
The positions of the players are never fixed and can be used apart from the basic cricket fielding positions.
Basically the cricket field is divided into two halves – the ‘off-side’ and the ‘leg-side’. The side where the batsman hits the ball away from the legs is known as the off-side and the side which is nearer to the legs is known as leg-side or the on-side.
Cricket fielding positions
Slips – The name of this cricket fielding position came from the fact that it is the position which takes the advantage of a slip or a mistake from a batsman.
The position of the fielder is made somewhat next to the wicketkeeper and their aim is to catch the ball when it comes off the edge of the bat.
Often there are many slip fielders placed next to each other designated to do the same job and is named as First slip, Second slip, etc., and the numbering is started from the region outside of the wicketkeeper. The entire slip members is collectively known as the ‘slip cordon’.
Point – The name of this cricket fielding position came from the phrase ‘near the point (or direction of the face) of the bat.’
In previous days the point fielders were more close to the batsman but nowadays the point fielders are placed basically at the edge of the circle.
However there are two positions which are placed extremely close to the batsman, which is the ‘silly point’ which is placed on the off-side and ‘short leg’ position which is placed on the leg-side.
The name of the silly point came from the fact that it is silly to field at just a close proximity of the player as one can get hurt easily as the batsmen always try to hit the ball hard.
The short leg position is also known as the ‘bat pad’ position. This is because it is the position which is intended to catch the ball after it unintentionally travel after strike the bat and pad consecutively thus ending up only a metre or two on the leg side.
Gully – This cricket fielding position must not be confused with the gully cricket that is played in India in narrow streets. However the term ‘gully’ can be referred to a ‘narrow channel or passage’.
The slip cordon and the point were very close catching positions but still there was a bit of a gap present between the two.
The captains soon understood that if the ball gets a thick edge from the batsman, it would travel through the gap in between the slip cordon and point.
To close this ‘gap’ or ‘gully’ they placed a fielder there and from then it came to be known as a gully fielder.
Third Man – This cricket fielding position is somewhat contemporary to the gully position and both the positions came about with no knowledge of the other one existing.
Basically the job of both the fielders is to save the runs which crept in between the slips and point fielders. The main difference lies in the position of the fielders.
Basically the gully fielder is placed inside the 30-yard circle, while the Third Man is placed outside the 30-yard circle and closer to the boundary line.
Covers – The origin of the name of this cricket fielding position came from two theories. One theory suggest that it came from the position where the covers of the pitch are kept post-play when not in use.
The other theory suggest that it came from the fact that the fielder stationed there is given the duty to cover the region between the ‘point’ and ‘middle wicket’.
The cover fielder is the initial line of defence when the batsman hits the ball through the middle of the point and middle wicket. The fielder is stationed there is given the duty to stop close singles or to stop a ball getting to the boundary.
Mid-wicket – This position is equal to that of the cover fielder and the main difference is that cover fielder is placed on the off-side of the batsman while mid-wicket is the region on the leg-side of the batsman.
Mid-on and mid-off – These two positions generally refers to the middle region on each side of the field. At first the mid-off came into play as there was a need for a fielder to be stationed in between the cover fielder and the bowler.
Then later it was seen that the same fielder is needed on the leg side and hence the differentiation was done based on the side of the field.
Long-on and long-off – These two positions are somewhat analogous to the mid-on and mid-off positions.
The main difference is that these fielders are placed farther away from the batsman and stays closer to the boundary mainly to save the boundaries and to catch the ball in flight.
Fine-leg and Square-leg – The square-leg position is the one which is placed towards the square of the line of the batsman’s crease closer to the square-leg umpire.
The fine-leg is the position finer to the square leg i.e. if the ball hits the batsman finer on the bat towards the leg-side, it would naturally travel through that region.
There are certain other terms related to these key cricket fielding positions which differentiates the positions based on the distance and proximity from the batsmen.
Long/Deep-X – This means that the position is farther away from the batsman and is generally closer to the boundary ropes.
Short-X – This position means that it is somewhere in the middle of the entire field and at a short distance from the batsman.
Silly-X – This position refers to extreme closeness to the batsman and it is ‘silly’ or ‘imprudent’ to stand there and field.