Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/45

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23
FIELDING.

his body shows readiness. He seems asking for work—catches for choice. But every hit means for him a chance of helping his own side by stopping the ball at all hazards. Nothing is more desirable in a fieldsman than an earnest intention to do his best and no less. It is so easy to "skulk" in the field. Only the quick-sighted judge and the fielder himself know that the last four might have been saved by a trifle more alertness. It is a good cricketer who fields to win, whether fortune frowns or smiles.

It is sometimes difficult to sustain this kind of ardour among boys. They are liable to be slack about fielding. Perhaps the best preventive is to make the games interesting by arranging matches between dormitories and houses, or against masters or past members—anything, in fact, for the sake of a match. "Pick-ups" rarely succeed. Slackness in the field is an abomination, it is so absolutely unnecessary. Yet boys are sure to be slack unless their interest is aroused. So the more matches, such as those mentioned above, are played, the better for the school. Practice in actual games and matches does much more good than any other—partly because the exact conditions required are present, partly because more real eagerness is called out. Excellence in cricket cannot be reached except through a strong love for the game. Anything in the shape of compulsory cricket at schools seems to me inimical to the best interests of cricket. Boys who go into the field against their own desire will make but little progress in the game. It ought not to be necessary to force cricket down boys' throats. It seems hard to believe that any boy, who was once shown what a splendid game it is, would have the least desire not to play on all possible, and some impossible, occasions. Perhaps it is argued to make the game compulsory does not touch those who would have played in any case, while those who would have shirked or loafed are forced to take exercise and become energetic members of school society. There may be much in this. But somehow compulsory cricket seems almost a contradiction in terms. Like every other thing worth doing, cricket entails a certain amount of drudgery during the earlier stages of learning the game. But the pleasures inseparable from the use of bat and ball are surely a good enough set-off against this drudgery, especially as the reward of hard work is so apparent in the fine performances of those who have had patience to go through with the preliminary toils and troubles. One can