Good slip catching is a vital component to the success of both professional and amateur cricket teams. In matches where the best batsmen make so few mistakes, the difference between a catch that is taken and one that is dropped can be huge! If you can make yourself into a good slip fielder, you will make yourself very valuable to your team and you will also contribute more towards winning games of cricket. It’s no coincidence that the best cricket teams of all time such as Australia in the 90’s and West Indies in the 70’s/80’s have featured some of the best slip fielders of all time! Guys like Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Carl Hooper all played vital roles in these teams and in my opinion we should try to copy the techniques that they used as closely as possible!
If you’re going to be a good catcher in the slips, you’re going to need lighting fast reactions, excellent hand-eye co-ordination, and high powers of concentration. In this post, I’m going to share some tips that will help you to add all of those skills to your game!
Here are my 11 tips you can use to improve your slip catching:
- Set a Good Solid Foundation
- Get Your Alignment Correct
- Stay Low for as Long as Possible
- Decide Whether You’re Going to Watch the Ball or the Bat
- Use the Batsman’s Footwork to Anticipate the Type of Catch You’ll Receive
- Use the Reverse/Orthodox Cup Catching Techniques
- Relax Your Hands
- Find a Way to Help Yourself Stay Focused
- Use the Wall Bounce Drill
- Purchase Some Equipment & Perform Specific Slip Fielding Drills
- Practice the Spectacular Catches Too!
I’m now going to take you through each of these tips individually and explain why they’ll be beneficial to your ability to take catches in the slips!
Set a Good Solid Foundation
When fielding in the slip cordon, your starting position is incredibly important. A good base position will allow you to move quickly to both your left and right, and will also allow you to explode upwards if the ball flies above your head.
If you want to get yourself into the ideal base position for fielding in the slips, follow the steps below:
- Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder width apart, but not so wide that it becomes uncomfortable.
- Bend your knees so that your upper body moves lower to the ground. This low position is vital, and we’ll discuss that properly later!
- With your knees bent, make sure that your body weight is positioned over the front of your feet, rather than having your weight back over your heels. If you’re leaning back, it will make it harder for you to take those catches that require you to come forwards towards the ball. Also, make sure your weight is on the instep of your feet. By positioning your feet in this way, it makes it easier for you to push off the inside of either foot and propel yourself to your left or your right if required.
- When your knees are bent and your upper body has moved down towards the floor, position your elbows just above your knees, and cup your hands together at around shin height, with your fingers pointing downwards. Ensure that your head is directly above your hands.
If you follow these steps, you should end up in a position similar to the one that I’m demonstrating below!
Some players will have little variations on this position. Some like to stand a little bit taller, and some like to sink down a little lower in their stance. Some players like to rest their elbows on their knees, and some like to not have them touching. Feel free to try out the position that I’m showing above and make any little changes that make you more comfortable. When fielding at slip you will have to stay in this position for long periods so it needs to be a something that your body is comfortable with!
Get Your Alignment Correct
Slip fielders should try to make sure that they are standing in the correct position on the field before the ball is bowled. Getting yourself into this correct position will often require you to communicate with the wicket keeper and the other slip fielders (if there is more than 1 slip in place).
If you’re fielding at first slip (the slip that stands closest to the wicket keeper) you should position yourself slightly further back than the keeper, and stand about two metres to the side of them. The keeper will be able to cover a large amount of ground when they dive for the ball, so if you’re fielding at 1st slip, it is not necessary to stand directly next to the keeper. 1st slip is positioned behind the keeper so that they do not crash into each other when they dive for the ball.
Any other slip fielders should base their positions off the person fielding at 1st slip. For example, 2nd slip should stagger themselves so they are standing in front of 1st slip, but also slightly to the side of them. If I’m fielding at 2nd slip, I like to position my inside foot a full stride away from the line of 1st slip’s outside foot. This trend continues along the slip cordon. 3rd slip should be in front of, and slightly to the side of 2nd slip, and position their inside foot roughly a full stride away from the line of 2nd slip’s outside foot. The photo below will give you a good idea what a real slip cordon should look like!
If you get your alignment correct as I’ve demonstrated above, you will be a much more effective slip fielder!
Stay Low For As Long As Possible
When fielding in the slips, I advise a lot of players to stay low for as long as they possibly can. This is because starting from a low base and pushing yourself upwards quickly to take a high catch is much easier than it is to drop yourself down and take a low catch if your original position is more upright. One action is a lot more explosive than the other, and explosive movements are often what is required when we are fielding in the slip cordon.
Many inexperienced slip fielders will start to stand taller as the ball leaves the bowlers hand, and if the ball travels quickly towards them just above the ground, they will struggle to get back down to take the catch. A lot of these fielders don’t even notice that they’re shifting their body upwards like this until someone points it out to them! To remedy this, as you watch the ball travel towards the batsman, focus on maintaining your original stance with bent knees and your hands just above the ground at shin height. You can even use repetition as you’re getting ready for the ball to be bowled and tell yourself to ‘stay low’. If the ball takes the edge and flies up towards your head, you can push up and bring your hands up to your head to take the catch incredibly quickly. If the ball travels down towards your ankles, your hands are almost right where they need to be and you’ll just need a swift adjustment to complete the catch.
Decide Whether You’re Going To Watch The Ball Or The Bat
All slip fielders should decide early on in their slip fielding career whether they prefer to watch the ball as it travels through the air towards the batsman, or whether they prefer to watch the edge of the batsman’s bat and wait for the ball to hit it! Most slip fielders will use one of these methods, and neither method is really any better than the other. The choice simply comes down to which method works best for you!
Whichever method you choose, you should stick to it and get comfortable with repeating the process during each delivery. If you get into the habit of doing this, it will give you a repeatable process to follow for each ball bowled by the bowler, and as a result it will make it a lot easier for you to catch the ball when the batsman does edge the ball towards you.
I’ve read that a lot of professional cricketers will advise anyone that is fielding at 1st slip to focus on the ball. This is because the 1st slip fielder is almost directly behind the ball and can pick up the line a lot better than the other slip fielders. For the wider slip fielders like 2nd, 3rd and 4th slip, it is often said that people in these positions should watch the edge of the bat and wait for the ball to fly towards them!
Use the Batsman’s Footwork to Anticipate the Type of Catch You’ll Receive
During one of my first cricket matches for the senior team one of my team mates gave me this little tip, and it has stuck with me ever since!
Basically, you can use the movement of the batsman to give you clues to what sort of catch you’ll have to take if the batsman edges the ball in your direction. If the batsman pushes back and tries to play the ball off the back foot, this usually means that the bowler has delivered a short ball which is going to bounce relatively high. If the batsman edges this delivery, there is a high chance that the ball will be above waist height when it gets to you. If the batsman moves their front foot down the pitch and plays a front foot shot, it is likely that the bowler will have bowled a full ball which does not bounce as high. Therefore, if the batsman misjudges this ball and edges it, there is a larger possibility that the catch you will have to take will be a low catch, below waist height.
Little things like this can give us that extra split second to prepare ourselves to move in a certain direction, and seeing as though the ball will often get to us in less than a second, any small clues we can give ourselves regarding where the ball is going to end up can make a huge difference to our slip catching success. If you’re someone who likes to watch the ball rather than the batsman’s bat, you can keep an eye on the movement of the batsman in your peripheral vision whilst you’re looking at the ball. You should be able to tell if the batsman shifts their body forwards or backwards without having to look directly at them.
Obviously, this tip won’t be accurate every time – a batsman may make a mistake with their footwork, or the pitch may not be bouncy enough to allow the ball to travel through to you above waist height, but in a lot of cases I’ve found these rules to be pretty accurate.
Use the Reverse/Orthodox Cup Catching Techniques
If you want to be a good slip fielder you’re going to have to use your hands in the correct way. I’d say 80% of the catches that will come your way when you’re fielding in the slips will be ones that you can get both hands to. The other 20% of catches will be more difficult, and will require you to go at the ball with just one hand and dive around a little bit!
Using the orthodox cup and reverse cup catching method can help you to catch those 80% of balls that you can get both hands to. The orthodox cup technique can be seen in the picture on the left below. To use this technique, your hands should be positioned closely together, with your little finger on both hands touching each other. Your fingers should be pointing down towards the ground. The reverse cup technique is the opposite of this, and you can see this being demonstrated in the photo on the right below! With the reverse cup, your fingers should be pointing upwards towards the sky, and your thumbs on both hands should be touching one another. Having your hands close together while using these techniques will stop the ball bursting through the middle.
The key part of the orthodox/reverse cup techniques comes down to when you choose to use them. Basically, any ball that comes towards you below the height of your stomach should be taken using the orthodox cup technique. Any ball that comes towards you above stomach height should be taken using the reverse cup technique! If a batsman edges the ball towards you and it is around stomach height as it reaches you, you may be confused as to which technique to use. In this case, I recommend bending your knees and sinking down nice and low in your stance so that you can take the catch using the reverse cup.
Taking catches in the ways that I’ve described above is the most comfortable way to do it. Use your time in practice to get comfortable with catching like this. Once you have done it enough, it will feel like second nature to you which is exactly what you want!
Relax Your Hands
When you’re waiting for the ball, try to think about keeping your hands as relaxed as possible rather than being tensed up. When taking catches in the slips, we should be trying to cushion the ball with our hands. We do this by moving our hands back in towards our body as the ball makes contact with our hands. Moving our hands back into our body and cushioning the ball in this way means that the impact will not hurt your hands as much, and therefore you’ll be able to catch the ball a lot easier.
This is really easy to practice! All you have to do is get a partner and throw a ball back and forth between you. If you don’t have a partner, throw the ball against a wall. Each time you catch the ball, focus on pulling it in towards you as it makes contact with your hands. You’ll need to practice this a lot if you want it to become second nature to you!
When I’m in my stance and waiting for the ball to be bowled I will let my hands hang pretty loosely at shin height. I also focus on letting the ball come to me and catching it as it reaches me, rather than coming forwards to meet the ball. Both of these approaches will help you to remain more relaxed when taking slip catches, which should help to increase your successful catch rate!
Find a Way to Help Yourself Stay Focused
If you’ve played any cricket before, you’ll know that fielding can be one of the most mentally draining parts of the sport. A lot of time could pass before the ball comes to you, and this means that a lot of players have the tendency to lose concentration. If you allow this to happen to you, especially when fielding in a vital area like the slip cordon, it can be extremely costly. Therefore, we should all have a few little habits or things we can do that help us to retain our focus before each delivery.
I’ve already kind of mentioned one of the tips that I use, and that is to remind yourself to watch the ball or the bat before each ball is delivered. Many players will repeat ‘watch the ball’ or ‘watch the bat’ to themselves multiple times as the bowler is approaching the crease, and this helps your mind to stay fully concentrated on what you need to be doing.
Another thing I like to do to keep my concentration levels high during long periods in the field is to switch off mentally between deliveries. As the bowler is walking back to the end of their mark and preparing to bowl the next ball, I like to have a quick chat with the wicket keeper or a team mate close by, or just hum a tune to myself or think about something else. Simple little things like this can help preserve your mental energy, allowing you to use it when you need it the most! Try out a few different techniques and see what works best for you!
Use The Wall Bounce Drill
This is one of the simplest drills you can do to get comfortable with reacting to the ball quickly and taking sharp catches in the slip region. If you want to perform the drill, here’s what you’ll need:
- A tennis ball
- A flat wall that you can stand opposite
- A soft surface so you can dive around if needed
In addition to those things, you can also ask a partner to help you, although this isn’t 100% necessary! To perform the drill, follow these steps:
- Stand and face the wall that you’re going to be using during the drill. Ideally you should be standing around 2-3 metres away from the wall.
- Hold a tennis ball in your throwing hand. Your first task during this drill is to sink low into the stance that you use when fielding in the slips, then throw the ball forcefully at the wall.
- Once the ball hits the wall and rebounds back to you, you should take the catch using either the orthodox or reverse cup method.
- By throwing the ball at different angles, you can test your catching abilities at different heights. When you do this drill, make sure you test yourself adequately against low catches and high catches, as well as catches that require you to move to both your left and right.
To increase the difficulty of this drill a little bit, you can ask a partner to stand behind you with the ball and throw it at the wall for you. This means you will not have an idea where the ball is going to go, and you’ll have to watch the ball carefully in order to complete the catch.
Purchase Some Equipment & Perform Specific Slip Fielding Drills
In order to get the most value out of your practice time, I would recommend purchasing a couple of bits of fielding equipment that will help you out.
The first of these is a rebound net – click here to view the latest price of one of my favourites on amazon! The product basically consists of an adjustable metal frame with a net tightly wound around it. If you throw a ball at the net, it will rebound at a very quick speed, which makes it excellent for simulating slip catching. As I’ve already mentioned, the frame on most rebound nets is adjustable. This means that by changing the position of the frame, you can test yourself against both high and low catches! I used these nets a lot when I was younger, and they’re great fun to use even when you’re practicing by yourself. Like with the wall bounce drill, you can also get a partner to throw a ball at the net for you. This makes the catching drill a little more challenging as you won’t know where the ball is going to go before it is thrown!
The second piece of equipment I like to recommend is a Katchet Training Aid – click here if you’d like to view the latest price of one of these on amazon! This product is basically a small ramp that is positioned on the floor. If a ball is thrown at the ramp, it will bounce off at random angles, which makes it great for practicing slip catching.
If you want to practice your slip fielding with one of these, I’d recommend getting into your stance around 4-5 metres away from where the training aid is positioned. The raised edge of the training aid should be facing towards you. Once you’re in your stance, have a partner throw a cricket ball on to the ramp while you attempt to complete the catch.
These two drills are great for practicing slip catching. I’d recommend practicing with a real cricket ball as regularly as possible as this will train your hands to cope with the impact of the harder ball. Some players practice with tennis balls too often, so when it comes to catching a hard cricket ball during a match, they may be slightly intimidated. Regular practice with the harder ball should help you avoid that!
Practice the Spectacular Catches Too!
Most of the tips I’ve mentioned during this post have been ones that will help you take the catches that you can get both hands to. However, as we know, cricket isn’t always that simple! Therefore, you should always practice taking more challenging catches that require you to catch the ball with one hand, or ones that require you to dive sideways. Taking these kinds of catches during a real match can be real game changing moments, and therefore we should practice them as much as possible! My motto when it comes to cricket practice is that we should always try to make our practice sessions as tough as the situations we will face during a real match, if not tougher! This is the only way to ensure that you’re adequately prepared to perform your skills when it matters.
To practice more challenging catches, work with a partner and ask them to stand about 4-5 metres away from you and throw the ball just outside your reach on either side of your body. They can also throw the ball high above you too, so you have to rise and jump up quickly in order to catch it. For this type of practice you’ll need a nice soft surface to play on so you can jump and dive around comfortably.
Many young players and even older ones are often reluctant to dive for the ball because they are scared of hurting themselves when they hit the floor. This type of practice can help you get used to the impact, and will mean that you’re more prepared to take a risk and go for the spectacular catch during a real game!
Fielding in the slips is an incredibly important role which demands a lot of attention to detail. If you can put the tips I’ve given you into action you will become a much more reliable fielder in a position where reliability is of paramount importance!
Like with most roles in a cricket team, the best way to improve as a slip fielder is by getting exposure to the position. If you play for a cricket club, work hard on your slip catching during practice and volunteer to field there during games. If you can combine both of these things with some practice at home too, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an elite slip fielder.
Let me know if these tips work for you in the comments below, and also feel free to point out any extra tips that you think I’ve missed!