The slip position is one of the most difficult positions to be as a fielder. A slip fielder is placed right behind the batsman, generally on the offside of the batsman. A slip fielder is placed to catch an edged or a glanced ball that is beyond the Wicket-Keepers reach. Slip fielding is a special skill that not every fielder can be good at.
The slip position is the most important position as the fielder can’t afford to lose his concentration at any point. The fielder has to have his eyes on every single delivery as most of the chances created are at this position. The ball might not go to the slip fielder a lot, but whenever the ball goes to the fielder he should be completely focused to complete the catch as the reaction time is very low & the margin of error is pretty high.
The biggest challenge of a slip fielder is to stand low for 90 over continuously in a day, i.e. 540 deliveries in 9 hours. Therefore, a lot of patience is required for the fielder to take hold of those 3-4 deliveries that come their way as huge opportunities.
Rahul Dravid, who holds the record for most catches in the slip position says that “There are no easy catches in the slips”. Every team has a difficult task to identify players who have the skills & the temperament to become a good slip fielder. In the original format of the game, it is more important to have the right slip fielders as most of the chances with the new ball are created in the slips. Be it against a fast bowler or a spinner, slip fielding is not an easy task.
Michael Paul Vaughan the former Captain of the England Cricket Team, in a post-match event, talked about the importance of slip catching. He stood in the 2nd slip for almost his entire career. He focused on catching with very soft hands as it absorbs the force of the ball & maximizes the chances of the ball being caught.
While fielding at slip for a fast bowler, one needs to either focus on the ball or the edge of the bat. Whereas while fielding at slip for a spinner, one must follow the ball from the hand of the bowler so you have a basic idea of where the ball will go after taking the edge of the bat.
Anticipating the direction of the ball & the shot of the batsman increases the chances of the catch being taken, even if the ball comes from the face of the bat. Steve Smith another brilliant slip fielder does that very often and takes brilliant catches.
Ajinkya Rahane one of the best slip fielders in the world says that “The knees have to bend not the back, with the head as still as possible. The body has to be greatly stationery & one has to have remarkable reflexes.”