Ardent cricket fans are familiar with field placements and fascinated with batsmen’s tremendous cricket shot and fielders’ dive to save the ball from the point, a fielding position which is familiar to every cricket fans. The point fielding position is famous for acrobatic South African athlete Jonty Rhodes who used to prevent anything around his vicinity. Cricket’s one of most tricky field position is a slip. Both for the fielder and batsman this position is dangerous. Watching Mohammad Azharuddin, VVS Laxman, and Rahul Dravid fielding at slips and grabbing catches from Zaheer Khan and Sreenath’s swinging deliveries or leg spinner Anil Kumble and offie Harbhajan Singh is cricket’s one of the beautiful scenes.
But, do you ever think what is the origin of these field placements? Slip, silly point, and the third man seem strange if you think about their origin. It is very surprising that how they were named.
Here are the origins and reasons behind their name
On and off side of the field:
Don’t be confused this description is valid only for a right handed batsman. For the right handed batsman, Cricket field is divided into two parts one is offside and another is “leg side”.
The offside was the opposite side of the batsman and the leg side being the other end. This way the field got divided into two halves when you play away from your legs, it is the ‘off side, and if it is nearer his legs then it is “leg side.”
Before we go for further analysis of the field placements, let see the diagrammatic representation for the fielding positions.
Slips: One of the most logical names on the cricket field. This probably happened when the captains started asking their fielders to stand next to the keeper to take advantage of any “slip” from the batsman. Over the years, the term was coined on the basis of its literal meaning. Slips are divided into three parts- first slip, who is close to wicketkeeper, second slip, and third slip, who is known as a fly slip as he often needs to dive in the air to grab the ball.
Point: The name was coined considering the fielder’s direction of the face towards batsman’s bat. In early days ‘point was more closer in position than the one we are used to seeing today, at the edge of the circle. The point also has three different parts. The silly point which is close to the batsman. This position is mostly used in Test cricket. The other positions are backward point and deep point.
Gully: This fielding position is quite easy to understand the literal meaning of the word ‘gully’, which is “a narrow channel”. The flying slip and the point were close positions but soon the captains realised that the ball often passed through the gap between these fieldsmen. The block this ‘gully’’, they employed another fieldsman in that area.
Third man: It is important to understand here that the ‘gully’ and ‘third man’ are contemporary positions, each came about with no knowledge of the other existing. With the slip and point cordoning the offside behind the square, for the same reason to plug the gap between them, a third fielder was employed. This fielder soon came to be known as the “third man”
Covers: There are two theories behind this position; the first claims that the fielder is placed where traditionally the pitch covers were kept posts play, when not in use. So the captain urges his fielders to stand near the ‘cover’, leading to its modern nomenclature. The cover is placed through where the best cricket shot covers drive plays.
The other theory, in line with the earlier origins, claims that the ‘covers’ was a fieldsman who covered the ‘point’ and ‘middle wicket’. There are ‘deep extra cover’ too. This field placement stationed between deep cover and long off. The deep extra cover is located close to the boundary and far from cover and extra cover.
Mid-on and Mid –off: There is a general misconception that these terms refer to the ‘middleness’ of the position, they are not too far away from the batsman, nor too close. However, this is far from the truth. The terms “mid on” and “Mid off” stem from the terms “middle wicket” and “mid wicket on” used earlier. The ‘silly mid on’ is quite close to the square he fields at short leg and mid on to grab low catch when a batsman tries to drive the ball through the long on boundary.
The “middle wicket” was a player placed on the off side between extra cover and the bowler. Soon the occasional need for the same fielder on the leg side came up, and to differentiate between the terms, they were suffixed with ‘no and off’.
The terms ‘long on” and “long off’ were analogous to mid on and mid off, but further away from the batsman and nearer to the boundary.
Mid wicket: This term has a peculiar history. Though a traditionally used term, it received its current meaning somewhere in the 1930s. Prior to that, it was simply another name for ‘middle wicket off’, the more commonly used field position of the two.
Fine Leg and square leg: The term ‘fine’ means ‘straight’ near to the line that can be drawn between the stumps of the strikers’ and non-strikers’ end. The term ‘square’ means to the line of the batting crease. In simple terms, if a player is standing near the ‘square leg umpire’ he is in a ‘square’ position and if he moves towards ‘fine leg’, he is getting ‘finer’.
The terms fine leg and square leg are now easy to understand; if a batsman hit the ball bowled nearer to his leg “square” on the on side, it would be fielded by the ‘square-leg’ position and if his hit is fine, it would go towards the direction of ‘fine leg’.
There are some other less used fielding positions too as deep square leg for forward short leg, stem from the direction, distance and orientation of the position; for example, forward denotes the fielder ahead of the batsman, ‘short’ indicates the proximity of the player near the bat and ‘leg’ denotes that the fielder is stationed on the ‘leg side’.
Cow Corner: This field position probably named for this placement as it nestled between long on and deep mid wicket. In the 2011 World Cup MS Dhoni hit the winning six over this field position. Naturally captain doesn’t give any player this position as either deep midwicket fielder or long on fielder covers the position, but with advent of T20 cpatains are forced to place a fielder at this psotion in slog overs.
For other terms, one can refer to the glossary in the image above.