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How slip catchers react so fast
Slip Catch

With so many fielders pulling off impossible catches in the slips, the Academy thought it was about time to find out exactly how they do it.

Is it instinct, or does practice make perfect?

We spoke to Mark Simpson, a top physiologist at the English Institute of Sport, to shed some more light on the subject.

Taking a catch can be divided up into three parts - anticipation, reaction and movement.

Anticipation

Fielders always expect the ball to come to them, so they're constantly aware of what's going on around them.

Their level of awareness will increase when the bowler starts his run-up.

Marcus Trescothick

Their level of anticipation will rise even further depending on the how the bowler is holding the ball, the shape of his body or where the previous delivery went.

All of these factors give the fielder important information on where they expect the ball to go.

The fielder will have made all these decisions before the ball has left the bowler's hand.

Previous experience of fielding in that particular position also plays a major part in their decision-making.

And when the ball hits the bat, that's when their reaction time kicks in.

Reaction

The first part of reaction is identifying that the ball is actually coming their way.

The second part is to the make the right decision on what to do.

TOP TEST SLIP CATCHERS
Mark Waugh 181
Mark Taylor 157
Allan Border 156
Greg Chappell 122
Viv Richards 122
Ian Botham 120
Colin Cowdrey 120

The third part is to initiate the action. The reaction time can be seen as the start of the catching movement.

Reaction is automatic - it's not a conscious process, but it can be speeded up through practising specific drills.

Fielders can practice improving that reaction by receiving close fast catches. This will help them prepare for the catches out in the field.

Movement

The physical side is actually getting to the ball. If you're not quick enough, you're not going to catch the ball, no matter how fast your mental reaction is.

Specific explosive weight training and speed training can help improve jumping and moving actions, meaning the fielder can get to the ball quicker.

The other skill involved is pinpointing the ball when it comes off the bat.

The player has to have his eyes on the ball, which requires a high level of visual accuracy to actually concentrate your vision on a small object moving very, very quickly.

Marcus Trescothick

The fielder has to know where their body, in particular his hands, are in space and time and to coincide their hands with the actual flight of the ball.

The ability to coincide his hands in the right place at the right time to meet the ball in it's flight path is called "coincidence timing".

And it's all down to hundredths of milliseconds - it's that fast.

All of this evolves over time. You can see this in how animals catch their pray, how it develops into instinct.

For example, lizards survive by catching flies flying in the air with their tongues.



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