The infamous Bodyline tactics used by Douglas Jardine’s England side in the 1932-33 Ashes series involved placing several fielders behind square leg in catching positions, while the bowler aimed to bowl fast at the body of the batsman.Also read: Cricket Fielding Positions:The origins of field placement names in cricketThese tactics were designed mainly to counter the brilliant batting of Don Bradman and even though they were widely criticized, the tactics ensured that England neutralized the threat of Bradman and won the 5- match Test series 4-1.Over the years, captains and team managements have implemented innovative strategies in field placement, often successfully. We look at some of these field placement tactics used by captains in recent times, and their precursors in the past.
#1 Yorkshire Wall
Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale uses a tactic of placing four to six fielders catching in front of the batsman not more than 15 yards from the bat, which the team coach Jason Gillespie terms as the “Yorkshire Wall”.
The field placement is especially effective when a bowler bowls wicket-to-wicket and often helps in keep the run scoring in check. Batsmen are wary of playing a straight-drive which could be easily caught by the one the fielders standing in the “wall”.
#2 The ultra-straight mid off
Chennai Super Kings looked favourites to win the IPL 2010 final, but Mumbai Indians’ Kieron Pollard threatened to take the game away after blasting 27 runs from 9 balls coming in at number 8.
CSK skipper M.S. Dhoni noticed that Pollard was looking to hit the ball straight down the ground. He asked Matthew Hayden to stand at a very straight mid-on position, which was almost next to the start position of the run-up of the bowler Albie Morkel. The unconventional tactics paid dividends as Pollard hit the very next ball straight to Hayden and the dismissal sealed the match and IPL crown for the CSK side.
Dhoni used a similar strategy in IPL 2012, when he asked Ravichandran Ashwin to stand in the position off the bowling of Nuwan Kulasekara and the tactic resulted in the wicket of Robin Uthappa.
#3 Umbrella Field
In the T20I game between India and Australia at MCG in 2008, Aussie skipper Michael Clarke brought in all his fielders to surround Indian tail-ender Ishant Sharma who was going to face the hat-trick delivery from Adam Voges. While Ishant managed to somehow avoid getting dismissed and denied Voges a hat-trick, India went on lose the match comprehensively.
The “umbrella field”, in which all the fielders surround the batsman forming a ring behind the wickets, has been used by captains when in urgent need of wickets. New Zealand used this tactic in a Test against England in Auckland in 2013 off the bowling of Kane Williamson and Trent Boult.
The tactics were first used by Keith Carmody, who often placed all his fielders near the bat when he was captain of Western Australia in the 1940s. The Carmody field tactics of placing fielders in close catching positions were used often in cricket, famously by West Indies and Australia to support their fast bowling attacks. In modern-day cricket, the captains also use these tactics when bowling their spinners – as seen in the case of Voges and Williamson.
#4 Nine fielders in slips
The second match in the 1999 Zimbabwe-Australia ODI series saw Australia captain Steve Waugh decide to pack the slip cordon with all 9 fielders next to the wicket-keeper, with Damien Fleming bowling to David Mutendera, the Zimbabwe number 11 batsmen.
It was the first such instance in an ODI, though Greg Chappell had used the same tactic with Dennis Lillee bowling against New Zealand in a Test match in 1977.
#5 No wicket-keeper
English county side Worcestershire’s captain Daryl Mitchell raised many eyebrows when he asked the side’s keeper Ben Cox to remove his wicket-keeper gear and take position as an outfield player – and leaving no one behind the stumps. The on-field umpires had a brief discussion on this tactic and then decided that it was legitimate and allowed the game to proceed. The move worked well for the fielding side as they conceded just one bye after the move and ultimately Worcestershire won the match by 14 runs.
It wasn’t the first time in cricket history that a wicket-keeper was made to field in another position – often as a longstop behind the wickets but near the boundary. This tactic was used by Mike Brearley in 1979 in a match between England and West Indies.