Women's World Cup 2013 February 7, 2013

'You don't want the ball to go past you'

England's Lydia Greenway on what helps make her one of the best fielders in the world

England's Lydia Greenway is rated by many as the best fielder in women's cricket. She made her international debut at the age of 17 in 2003 and is only the sixth player from England to have played 100 ODIs. Greenway is also a mainstay of the batting, but it is on the field that she has made quite a name for herself. She spoke to ESPNcricinfo in Mumbai ahead of England's Super Six game against Australia.

How does it feel to have the reputation of being probably the best fielder in the women's game?
Of course it feels nice. It is something I enjoy doing, trying to contribute through fielding. Hopefully I can continue to do that for our team and contribute to wins.

Good fielders always like the ball coming to them.
Yeah. I grew up playing games with my brothers and sisters that were really competitive. At that young age, to develop that kind of mentality when you are growing up… I have thoroughly enjoyed fielding and I see it is as a challenge.

There is a YouTube video of you, where you leap in the air in the deep, take the ball one-handed, find yourself going over the rope and throw it back into play before stepping outside the boundary. What kind of work goes into developing such skill?
In the backyard, my brother would hit a lot of tennis balls at me with a tennis racquet. It was quite a lot of fun doing that growing up. I think it is also playing a lot of different sports that helps you with your agility. A lot of other girls in our team are also like that.

When you go flat out on the field, isn't there a feeling in your mind that you could sustain a career-threatening injury?
No, not really. If you enjoy fielding, you will always want the ball to come to you. When that happens, it takes away any fear that you may have, and you back yourself that you are going to stop it and not get hurt.

How much of fielding is down to pure instinct?
I think a lot of it is actually down to hard work and practice. A lot of it also comes down to instinct - say, trying to anticipate what the bowler is trying to do when you see where the ball is going. That is a quite big part of the game now. Especially when you are out on the boundary and trying to stop the ball. Also, when you are in the ring and trying to get that run-out - sort of read the batsman's mind and see what they are trying to do next.

Do you have a favourite fielding position?
I like fielding at deep midwicket, for the T20s especially. You always know the ball is going to come that way. In the one-dayers I start off in the ring at point, where it is hard to position yourself with the angle. I really enjoy that.

Jonty Rhodes used to say that at point, if you stand closer to the batsman it helps in cutting down the angle you speak about. Does it work that way for you as well?
Yes, the closer you are, the more you cut the angle down. But you cover that much more ground if you stand a bit further away, and you also have more time to react. I guess it depends on the stage of the game and what you are trying to get out of it.

Is being a good fielder like being a goalkeeper, that no matter what you won't let that ball go past you?
Yeah, I remember when I was growing up, playing football with my brother, and I was the one saving goal. That is where I get the mentality of not allowing the ball to go past me.

Would you say as a batsman that your fielding helps you stay in the side over competitors?
It obviously helps if you have got something to offer to the team. It is something I really enjoy. We have got ourselves a brilliant fielding team and I think everyone sets high standards in the middle.

Kapil Dev once said that when you stop a ball inside the boundary after a chase, it feels like winning a 100-metre sprint.
Yes. You don't want the ball to go past you, and when it does, you will do everything possible to try and stop it from going for four. It is a great feeling when you do stop them when you get yourself away towards the boundary.

How often do you field in the slips?
I have never really been in the slips much. There are some very good slip fielders in our team who specialise in doing it. They go out and practise the nicks every session.

How have the recovery routines changed over the years?
We do things like ice-baths to help in quick recovery. The following day, we have a session on the field which involves a lot of stretching, just to help prepare ourselves for the schedule, as games come thick and fast. We are playing every other day and also training in between. Recovery now plays a huge part in our preparations.

You are a fine batsman as well. What gives you more satisfaction?
To be honest, I don't really mind, as long as I am contributing to the team's success. As long as that happens, I don't really mind how I am known.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo