(Note: if there is already a thread on this somewhere, please direct me to it. It may answer many of my questions already, and I don't want to be repetitive.)
This topic has come up peripherally in a couple of other threads I've been involved in (I'm new to cricket and new to the forum), and I'd like to place here various questions I have about the way fielding positions are described by cricket commentators and fans (I hope 'fans' is not an Americanism--if it is, please correct me). To start generally, I've studied various diagrams, in books and online, including CricketWeb's own, and find that none of them are close to agreeing with each other. It's not so much that they contradict each other (although occasionally they do), it's more that none of them show all the positions, based on what you'd have if you combined all the diagrams. Anyway, let me start this thread with a few introductory questions. I'd appreciate help from any more knowledgeable folks who don't mind helping out a newbie (even an ancient one; 67 years old), who's had the opportunity here in the States to follow cricket online (via streaming) for several months now, and so am reading all I can to better understand this game I find fascinating.
1. The names for positions stretching out along the line of slips seem to be described in various ways by various commentators. The diagrams are fairly consistent on this: they only mention slips (first, second, etc.) and the gulley. However, in actual matches the situation is not always so simple. For example, you may have 3 slips 'in a row', then a fairly substantial space, another fielder, another substantial space, and another fielder, the last fairly close to point, but still backward. I've heard this called five slips, 4 slips and a gulley, and 3 slips and two gulleys (these last once called fine gulley and gulley, or maybe it was gulley and wide gulley). In my ignorance, it seems to me that the spacing between fielders should determine if fielders are all slips, or some of them something else. When there are two large gaps in the succession of fields, I would have thought the first gap makes the next fielder the gulley, and the next gap would make the last fielder, who's really quite close to the line of the batsman's wicket, most accurately described as backward point. However, I've never heard a fielder described as backward point.* Any comments on this situation (five fielders along the line of slips, but with a couple of gaps) would be appreciated.
*Update: during the u19 final, I did both hear and see (in a note at the bottom of the screen) a Pakistani player referred to as backward point, so I guess the term isn't purely of my invention.
1a. Here is a picture Adders provided in another, related thread.
Fascinating, to me at least! I guess this would just be called 9 slips, especially since there is no meaningful gap among any of them. but what if there were only 7 or 8, with a gap between two of them somewhere in the middle. Would they be described any differently, or still as just 7 or 8 slips?
(Side note: what type of bowler would be most appropriate for such a positioning of fielders? I'd guess a fast bowler consistently bowling outside off stump, or a leg cutter? Or am I all mixed up on bowler types? This is another topic I need a lot of help with, and will probably be starting a thread on at some point.)
2. One of the most glaring variation, both on diagrams and in commentary, is the use of both 'sweeper' and 'deep cover' to describe what is, as far as I can tell, the same position. Diagrams generally use one term or the other, but never both that I can find. Is there any difference between these two positions? Or is it merely a matter of different habits of different commentators?
3. Speaking of covers, can you have an 'extra cover' without having a 'cover'? Or, if there is a fielder in the 'extra cover' position, is he going to be called a mid off, or perhaps 'wide mid off', if there is no cover?
4. Concerning 'fine leg', some diagrams and commentators seem to place fine leg right by the boundary, while others place the position half-way, with 'deep fine leg' being by the boundary. If a commentator says the fielders include a fine leg, and you can't see the fielder because of the television or streaming video picture being focused narrowly on the pitch, where do you figure the fielder is positioned, half-way or deep?
5. I can't resist adding a question about 'silly' positions, even though my list is getting rather long for a first post in a thread. I remember silly mid off and mid on from the one cricket match I saw in my youth (1967), a Test match at Trent Bridge, and the professor who explained positions to me described those two positions (no recollection if any fielders actually played them on that day, I doubt it). It seemed to me one of the most colorful terms in cricket (along with googley and a few others), so I've always remembered it with a smile. And when I first started being able to view cricket matches on the 'net a few months ago, I saw, fairly often, fielders playing virtually 'in the batsman's face'. I thought at first these were silly mid off or mid on. But as I studied and listened, I came to realize that the silly mid's are positions just wide of the middle of the pitch, on either side, and I don't think I've seen anyone actually play that position, nor have I heard a commentator mention either of them. Rather, on the off side, a fielder 'in the batsman's face' seems to be uniformly called silly point. Is that correct? Yet on the leg side, best I can tell, the exactly corresponding position is not called silly leg but short leg. Is that correct? Or is there a term 'silly leg', or something else for that position? It seems to me that 'short leg' covers both a fielder playing half way in from square leg and a fielder right in the batsman's face on the leg side. Is this correct?
As I try to get a better understanding of the rich depth of cricket, I realize that much of what I ask about, especially with regard to fielding positions, is stuff that life-long cricket followers probably don't even think about. When you describe where a fielder is playing you don't have to think about it. When a commentator says where a player is fielding, you can automatically picture pretty much where the player is located. But for someone coming to the game in mature (to say the least) age, it's very different, and I'm only gradually getting to the point where if I hear a position, if it's one I understand well, I can place it without thinking (such as long on and long off). Some of the hardest to keep straight (and so I can't place them on the field without thinking about it) are the backward positions on the leg side. Maybe that's because there can be only two at any given time. In any case, if some of you wouldn't mind sharing your understanding of something you normally don't even have to think about, I'd much appreciate it.
One last note: I find that cricket on television/streaming concentrates so much on the run up, delivery, and batsman, that you can rarely get a view of the whole field to see where the players are positioned, which seems to me to be a critical factor in the bowling side's strategy, and one that should be almost constantly adjusted based on the bowler and the batsman. It's one reason why I'd love to be able to see some cricket in person, though I have neither the time nor the means to travel (necessarily across water) to see top level cricket played. I do hope to see some 'pick up matches' (an Americanism? games played by youths or adults who just play locally for fun, wherever they can find a spot to make a cricket field out of) here in east Tennessee once the weather warms up. But all of you regular followers of cricket, do you somehow manage to know where all the fielders are positioned throughout a match you watch on television? If so, how? Or do you just forego knowing that aspect of the bowling side's strategy? Commentators, I've noticed, will often mention positioning when they think the bowling side is making an egregious error, but they mention typically only one position missing (or unneeded), they hardly ever seem to set the whole field. Am I correct in this, or am I just missing a lot because the commentators are covering too much information too fast for me as of yet?
And for all who've read to the end (if any ), thank you!