Baseball’s benefits: what can Cricket learn?

I was pointed to this excellent article, written by Martin Stabe, which has really got me thinking. He raises some interesting points about baseball and cricket; their similarities are obvious, but his emphasis on the importance fielding is worth discussion.

Martin mentions this article at The Independent (London), which says England have spilled 13 catches this summer to Australia’s six. Now, I find that surprising – not that I’m doubting the author’s integrity – because just as much time has been made in the media of Australia’s fumbles as England’s. Perhaps the British media, nay public, are fundamentally in shock at the Australian’s slipping standards, and equally blasé at England’s buttery fingers. Anyway, moving on…

Martin thinks cricket’s fielders look lazy and incompetent, compared to their baseball counterparts, and not solely due to the lack of gloves. I’m sure England have used baseball-style coaching methods in the past, but in these days of frenetic, manic cricket, surely a professional fielding coach should be called for?

My only complaint with Martin’s otherwise excellent piece, is this:

An error in the field might cost the fielding team just one run in both games, but while this is usually no more than a minor irritant in a cricket, it’s a catastrophe that could cost a team the game in baseball.

That, essentially, is the beauty of cricket, summed up in one fell swoop. While it might seem as though runs are meant to be made, and “mere singles” are perfectly permissable, saving runs has always been vital in cricket and is becoming more so in the modern era. We saw at Edgbaston, and indeed Old Trafford, in this summer’s Ashes that runs are painfully precious. The odd single here and there can just as easily, and tragically, cost a cricket side a game. Which only goes to emphasis the importance fielding now has upon cricket, and perhaps why more attention and time should be spent on practising its art.

So what is the general opinion? Should teams bring specialist fielding coaches on tours, along with batting and bowling specialists? I think this summer has shown just how vital they could be, although I’m reminded of some words I heard (Geoff Boycott’s I think – oh, no, it was one of the Chappells) the other day: “You learn to catch between 7 and 15.” I know I’ve been talking about fielding rather than catching, but the two are obviously closely linked. It makes sense, too – you do learn how to catch in that age-range. Right, enough waffle…

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