Aussies' plans to find next fielding phenoms
Veteran 'keeper turned national fielding coach Brad Haddin believes attitude is the key to restoring Australian standards in the field
10 August 2018, 05:44 PM AEST
There was a time when Australia's elite fielders were so sharp – and so confident in their abilities – they referred to themselves as 'The Iron Curtain'.
From point to cover, and cover to midwicket, the likes of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds prowled the field like panthers, ensuring batsmen the world over second-guessed a quick single whenever they took on the Australians.
Australian men's team fielding coach Brad Haddin wants to bring that level of elite fielding back, and believes it can be achieved through the application and improvement of one word: attitude.
"I played a lot of cricket with those guys and it was about attitude," Haddin told cricket.com.au. "It was personal for them in the field – they wanted to own that inner ring, and they didn't want one ball to get past.
"Like their batting or bowling, they wanted to be the best in the field. They understood the importance of it and how much it made a difference in a game.
"One thing those guys did as much as anyone in the world, they enjoyed the contest. They enjoyed being in the field, getting into the grind or making those little plays that changed a game."
Haddin's mission is one that has been more broadly discussed among the high-performance coaching staff at CA headquarters in Brisbane this week, with the notion of 'making fielding fun again' underpinning a review of fielding and wicketkeeping coaching programs throughout the country.
And that, in turn, leading to improved awareness and technique in the field – the traits Ponting and co prided themselves on.
"Fielding for the Australian cricket team was what our identity was really about," he said. "We prided ourselves for a long time on being the benchmark in that area. For a long time, we had the world's best athletes in the fielding space, and that's where we're trying to get back to – trying to create a real identity of what Australian fielding is about.
"My message to the Australian team is all about the intensity that we do our fielding at, and making sure we're competing in every play. I want every play to be a contest – 120 contests in Twenty20, 300 contests in a 50-over game.
"It's about making sure you understand the importance of fielding, and how big of an impact it can have on a game."
For more than a year now, Cricket Australia's coaches and analysts have had access to player data on fielding, which quantifies fielding performance. One avenue through which those numbers are assessed is the 'Impact Rating' which looks at both the players' fielding average (dismissals made divided by the total of opportunities) and their strike rate (dismissals per innings).
The IR gives a readout to demonstrate not just how efficient a fielder is, but how often they are involved in the game, and provides a more accurate and complete picture of a player's fielding prowess.
A byproduct of the data is a healthy competition among players, which in turn plays a part in pushing the standard of training.
"The things we're doing with our fielding metrics and our throwing programs, and the messages going back to the states has been really beneficial for (the national squad)," Haddin said.
"When they get to us, we don't have to spend as much time on those things, and we can focus on getting the intensity we need to make a difference in the game."
The 66-Test veteran said training programs had been designed to better simulate game situations, as opposed to repetitive skills-based exercises.
"We make sure a lot of our fielding now is really high intensity – it's not all about volume," he said.
"We're focusing on getting as close to game intensity as we can at training.
"We're having our guys making decisions under pressure all the time, so when they get into a game, they're not second-guessing any part of their technique and they're used to being at the intensity required to make a difference."