BEYOND the BASICS: CRICKET STRATEGIES
The Art and Strategy of Batting
Just as Pitching controls the game of baseball, BATTING controls the game in cricket. So, you must start with batting to understand cricket strategy. Recall that, in cricket, the batter (or BATSMAN) can hit in every direction, all around him. He uses many different kinds of "strokes" to do this...."driving" with a full golf-like swing to hit straight ahead or slightly to left or right, "pulling" or "hooking" to hit the ball across his body and to his left, "late-cutting" or "glancing" at the delivery, to just deflect a fastball past the catcher (wicket-keeper), and so on. The BATSMAN'S STRATEGY, and how he executes his hits, is illustrated in the diagram below.
FIELDING STRATEGY, naturally, consists of stopping the batsman's hits. There are "fielding positions" that, in theory, could stop any hit in any direction. There are "infield" positions close in to the batsman, "midfield" positions which are halfway to the field boundary, and "outfield" positions which are close to the fence. What these positions are called, and where they are located on the field, are shown in the chart below.
As you can easily see, there are far too many positions. 30 or more are listed in the chart! As you know, a cricket team consists of 11 players. There is no way that 9 fielders (i.e. excluding the current pitcher and the catcher/wicket-keeper) could possibly cover all 30 positions. But which ones should be covered? That depends on PITCHING (i.e. BOWLING) STRATEGY. BOWLING, or CRICKET PITCHING
In cricket, the PITCHER (called the BOWLER) can bounce the ball on the ground....if, but ONLY if, he wants to. That means two things. First, he can bounce the ball at different distances from the batter, getting him to mis-step in deciding how to deal with the pitch. Second, he can do more things with the ball... not only move it in the air, like baseball pitchers do, but also "break", i.e. change directions after bouncing off the ground. By combining movement in the air with "breaks" off the ground, and also varying his length at the same time, he can throw some very complicated pitches! All these options available to the cricket PITCHER, or BOWLER, are shown in the diagrams below.
COMBINING BOWLING, FIELDING STRATEGIES
Now we can see how bowling and fielding strategies can be combined to deal with the batter's (batsman's) control of the game. Typically, cricket uses pitching or bowling specialists, i.e. pitchers who specialise in throwing fast or medium or slow, or in certain kinds of "breaks" or in-the-air movement. Here is why.
In baseball, it would be okay to have one pitcher throw many kinds of pitches, because batters can hit only into a quadrant ahead of them to score, and fielders can be positioned to cut off most line drives, usually making it necessary to hit over the fielders' heads for any kind of scoring. In cricket, because fielders have to be positioned to cover 360 degrees, specialist pitchers are a big help... because you can estimate where the batter is likely to hit a certain kind of pitch....and place your fielders there! In other words....when you pick your specialist pitcher, you also pick the kind of pitching that is to be delivered...and you set your field of 9 to cover the possible hits that could be made against it. For example, 100-mph fastballs are unlikely to be hit back past the pitcher....it is difficult to pull sliders around to your left....curve balls, on the other hand, are likely to wind up in the left outfield. You get the idea? All right, here are a couple of examples of how this might work. In both cases, we assume the batter is right-handed.
In the chart above, we are looking at an attacking field for a fastball bowler who has a good curve ball and can also "cut the ball in" to the batter off the bounce, i.e. throw "off-breaks". The "yellow zone" indicates where fast curveballs breaking in on...
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