Ron Kaplan, one of our most insightful and inquisitive baseball correspondents, has wondered how a cricket captain decides where to place his eleven players when there’s no foul territory and a batsman can hit the ball anywhere. Is there a strategy involved? he asks. Do Pete Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson belong in the Hall of Fame? (The answer to that question, by the way, is “yes.”) Seeing a captain trying to winkle out a batsman is one of the singular pleasures of the game.
The captain will have to take into account a number of things in placing his field: (1) What kind of bowling the batsman finds discomforting; (2) What kind of shots the batsman is good or bad at; (3) What kind of pitch (playing surface) it is—does the ball bounce high and come on fast, or low and slow (which makes it harder to get the ball out of the infield? (4) Is the opposing team losing wickets fast—in which case it’s time to put pressure on the batsmen by putting lots of fielders around the wicket—or are they scoring lots of runs—in which case you need a defensive field?
So, lots of questions. Although the permutations are unlimited, as in baseball, the fielders tend to stand in positions that through trial and error over the decades have proven to be useful. These can be seen on our schematics page. (Remember: there’s always a bowler and always a wicketkeeper. This means that the captain has only nine players that he can place.) On the other hand, there are some shots so outrageous that it doesn’t matter where you place the fielder. Witness, the “Dilscoop,” named after Sri Lankan captain, Tillakaratne Dilshan: