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by David Hinchcliffe Wednesday 18 September 2013
In a low scoring one day game, India's stand-in captain Virat Kohli, was unusually aggressive with his field settings. Is this a method you should copy?
There are certainly times when a bit of creative thinking results in unexpected fields, and results that hail you as a brilliant tactical leader.
But you need to be careful as a captain or bowler.
Limited over games are essentially about restricting the run rate. Wickets are important in doing this, so attacking is one way of slowing the rate. It's also a way of leaving gaps that batter can exploit, so you are constantly aware of the risks.
Many captains and bowlers play safe. The field goes back as soon as possible, and the focus is on slowing the rate with accurate bowling and reducing boundaries.
This is a legitimate tactic, even though it is often called uncreative.
Bolder captains hang on for longer. The slip stays in place for an extra over. 6 stay in the circle even after a couple of boundaries. It is aggressive and looking to take wickets. When it works you get praise because a wicket can easily turn a game in a handful of balls.
But leave the field up for too long and you look foolish. You become accused of being tactically naive; especially when you field second.
Where to draw the line with aggressive fields
Different people will tell you different things about when to attack and when to defend. A simple rule of thumb is to ask yourself a simple question:
How badly do I need a wicket?
In almost any game situation you need a wicket, but if the opposition need 12 an over and are 8 down, you don't need one very much. On the other hand, if they are ahead of the chasing rate you need one rather urgently.
It stands to reason you would look to try and take a wicket with a field setting more urgently in the latter case. This was true for Kohli in the ODI. He knew the score of 229 would be impossible to defend unless he bowled the West Indies out. So he tried to take wickets.
And that is where you can draw the line too.
It's very easy to set the field back as soon as you feel you are losing momentum. In fact, it makes more sense to have more fielders up in the circle - or even in close - to turn the game around. Wickets do that faster than any other way.
Keeping control while setting attacking fields
That said, it's also easy to be mindless with your attacking field. If you set a ring field and the batsmen are blazing it around then it's time to come up with another plan. Wickets don't just come from the catchers and in-fielders.
You still need to balance the run rate with the chance of tacking a wicket. The key is that the greater your need, the more attacking you can be.
Sometimes you will decide that the orthodox one day field will get the job done. It often does. But make sure that, like Kohli, you are thinking through your reasons and deciding how best to allocate your fielders.
That way when you walk off the field you can hold your head high in the face of critics, whether you were right or wrong.
© miSport Ltd 2013
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