England & Wales Cricket Board
Fielding coach warns of serious injury risk
Wisden Cricinfo staff
October 21, 2004
Simon Jones: his injury could have been avoided, says England's fielding coach © Getty Images
Mike Young, the former Major League baseball coach who has been recruited to assist England with their fielding drills, has warned that the players are putting themselves in danger of serious injury because they have never been taught to throw a ball properly.
Young, who worked with the Australian Test side before joining the staff of the ECB Academy, told The Sun newspaper that most international sides are haemorrhaging countless runs in the field through sloppy techniques, and cited the agonising experience of England's fast bowler, Simon Jones, as an example of what can go wrong if you don't know the basics of proper fielding.
On the opening morning of the 2002-03 Ashes, Jones ruptured the cruciate ligament in his right knee as he slid to field a ball on the rough, sand-based outfield of the Gabba at Brisbane. At the time, the England management blamed the underfoot conditions for the injury, but Young is adamant that the injury could nonetheless have been avoided.
"It was to do with poor technique," Young told The Sun. "I felt really bad for that young man, [but] his technique on the slide was terrible and I felt sorry that he ended up with ligament damage that could have spelt the end of his cricketing days. If he hadn't been coached and he suffered that kind of injury then it answers a very serious question.
"It can make so much difference to the outcome of a match to get the small things right," added Young, who has worked with Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles. "If we don't focus on fielding we're going to keep getting people hurt. We've got a lot of shoulder injuries because players at the highest level are not practising throwing enough."
International fielding has come a long way since the 1992 World Cup, when Jonty Rhodes revolutionised the art with his hyperactive work in the covers for South Africa. But Young believes fielding is still a poor relation, when compared with the disciplines of batting and bowling.
"I don't think attitudes have improved a whole long way since fielding was seen as something you did when you weren't batting or bowling. They have big award nights but they don't even have a Fielder of the Year award and it's just as important to the result. Fielding is just not taken seriously enough and it's a crime because it ranks extremely high in the game's skills."
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