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The Andrew White NCU Cricket Academy - The Big Save

Richard White
NCU PRO
 

The Andrew White NCU Cricket Academy continues to utilise the knowledge and skill sets of other sports with a recent session at the Ulster University (Jordanstown Campus) taken by elite goalkeeping coach and Crusaders FC player Michael Dougherty, and Brian Jensen, who spent a decade with Burnley FC and is now playing for Crusaders.

Fielding should be taken as seriously as batting and bowling, and in doing so must be practiced to the same intensity. In the modern game there are no hiding places in the field as the advent of T20 cricket means batsmen are capable of scoring shots all around the wicket and behind. Matches can be won or lost as a result of superb shot stopping and catching. Pressure can be exerted on the opposition batsmen by fielders, leading to concentration lapses or poor shot selection, or a fantastic stop in the field can lift the morale of a flagging team.

Andrew White highlighted to the Academy cricketers that William Porterfield (Ireland) is considered to be one of the top fielders in world cricket, but stressed that hours of practice have taken him to that level along with a natural talent.

In the game of cricket everyone in the field resembles the goal keeper, aiming to take catches and save runs that will ultimately help to win the game. Throughout the history of cricket fielders like Colin Bland and Jonty Rhodes (both South Africa), Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards (both West Indies) or Paul Collingwood (England) have dazzled spectators with their athletic dives to catch, stop the ball, or complete a run out.

Goalkeeper Andy Goram (Scotland 43 caps, Oldham Athletic, Hibernian and Glasgow Rangers) represented his country in football and cricket, and is the only person to have played in a first class cricket match and international football for Scotland. He played against the 1989 touring Australian's in a 97 run defeat, bowling six overs for thirty runs, and scoring four with the bat before being bowled by Tim May. However, his football career would prevent him from playing more than four times for Scotland.

Footwork is an essential aspect to goalkeeping and fielding, often proving the difference between a goal saved or a catch taken. Footwork needs to be developed over time so that it becomes a natural reaction rather than something that requires thought.

Andrew White said, 'I have been adamant for a long time that goal keeping skills have a significant role to play in developing fielding skills. Michael and Brian put the Academy players through their paces, and even in a couple of sessions the improvement was evident. It is always important to keep training fresh and this certainly gave us that opportunity'.

The session with Michael and Brian featured a variety of intense goalkeeping workouts that focussed on:

  1. using small quick steps and small stride lengths
  2. keeping the body in line with the ball
  3. hand preparation in front of the body: shortening the distance they have to move either up or down
  4. watching the ball all the way into the hands

Brian Jensen emphasised to the Academy cricketers that the feet are vital in goalkeeping, and that when the ball is not watched into the hands are the times when it will be dropped. He also made the point that the elbows and the wrists should both be employed as shock absorbers not just the elbows.

Academy cricketer James Magee speaking about the session said, 'I found it thoroughly enjoyable. The drills used can be transferred to our cricket training sessions to improve hand eye coordination and reflexes. I found it intriguing that the focus was on feet movement and agility, something as fielders we often do not think about'.

Some videos from the sessions:

   
 

Two photos illustrate Ireland Cricketers Gary Wilson and George Dockrell taking outstanding catches. (© Rowland White)