Field placements for spinners at all levels has been a constant concern for me since I began coaching in 1990. It is certainly one of the questions most asked of me, especially by junior spinners and their coaches.
My attitude has always been that the bowler should encourage the batsman to drive, therefore his catchers and run savers should support that tactic.
Inviting the drive encourages the maximum spin available to the bowler.
Shane Warne started that way, setting fields which encouraged him to spin the ball up, working the batsman across the crease as he did so.
Once he reached his prime his field settings changed to support two of his special gifts....spin and accuracy, a rare combination for a wrist spinner.
In my view his ability to almost always bowl with two fielders under the batsman's nose impacted heavily on the expectations of captains and coaches in all grades. They expected their leggies to bowl to the same field, despite the majority needing to sacrifice maximum revolutions on the ball to do so.
I recall a Richie Benaud story about how on a rare Saturday afternoon off he would drive around Sydney hoping to see a young spinner in action. Passing an oval his encouragement to stop and have a look was generally motivated by a glance at the field setting. If it was spread far and wide it usually meant a young spinner was having a trundle so he would pull over have a quiet look . That was quite a few years ago of course. Now, so the story goes, on a similar drive around town on a Saturday afternoon the same field is employed to diddley dobblers drying up the runs, so Richie drives on until he comes across a game where there are close in fielders suffocating the batsman. Ahh, better stop for a look, must be a spinner bowling!!
I am not sure how true the story is but there is a lot of substance in it.
Warnie discussed fielding settings with the spinners at the Centre of Excellence on the 12th September. To a man they believed that to put men in close meant you were attacking. I also think there is a touch of ego about wanting fielders around the bat. It suggests that pressure is being applied...and it is...mostly to the bowler!!
Shane said to the group" if you attack with the field then you defend with the ball. If you defend with the field, you attack with the ball." How simple that is and how true?
Spinners need a chance to develop their accuracy with maximum spin. Field settings play a major role in their growth.
I hope this article reaches captains, coaches and spinners out there because there is a need to apply the Warne principle in our cricket matches, for spinners at all levels.
It isn't old fashioned to set a field based on the bowlers ability and age.
It is common sense!